Joanne Canaday, a patient at Banner Gateway Medical Center, remembers the first time someone appeared on the video screen inside her room and began communicating with her.
"I thought, who are you?" she said. "At my age, it blows my mind. Who would have ever thought ... that somebody would be able to watch me from wherever in this hospital, and see what I'm doing and how I am?"
The winter visitor from Wisconsin is recovering from a fall.
The Gilbert hospital is the first hospital in the nation to implement a remote patient monitoring care system for all its medical and surgical patients, according to Philips VISICU, the company that holds the patent on the program currently used to remotely monitor most of Banner's intensive care unit patients across the country.
The system, iCare-Medical Surgical Care, involves a team of registered nurses, nurse practitioners and case managers in the "core," a room inside the hospital with high-tech monitoring, and audio/video surveillance capability. Inside of it, personnel track patient vital signs and test results, and alert staff to potential complications before they become more serious.
"We look forward to fully understanding the benefits and how we can extend our clinical transformation support to help hospitals further improve patient outcomes, clinical workflow and financial performance," said Dr. Marty Doerfler, vice president of medical affairs for Philips VISICU.
The medical-surgical system partners nurses in the core with nurses at bedside to provide minute-by-minute care.
"We're hoping it will be a solution to the nursing shortage, or at least it will take a dent out of it," said Venus Gaines, Banner Gateway's director of nursing for medical-surgical. "If I can use one less nurse per floor per day, it helps everybody."
The hospital began working a year ago on expanding the system across its three-floor, medical-surgical unit, she said. Banner Gateway has 79 medical-surgical beds.
The system is now live for patients on two floors and will include all three floors by the end of the month, Gaines said.
"We have the nurses on the floor actually doing the hands-on care and we can do the computer stuff here (in the core), and it frees them up to do more actual hands-on care and spend more time with the patients at the bedside, which is really our whole goal," Gaines said. "It's using technology to enhance nursing delivery."
Core personnel can identify potential complications, provide support to nurses in the patient room, assist with admission and discharge processes, answer patient and family requests, and provide patient education.
"We've had some absolutely phenomenal success stories already where someone's O2 stats (oxygen level in the blood) were dropping and we camera-ed in and found them in a little distress," Gaines said. "We got the nurses in there, got the physician in there and never had to call a code or rapid response. We got the right person in there early enough to find out that there was an issue and got it taken care of immediately."
Patients are color coded according to their need for repeated visits by core personnel.
"We try to go in and see every patient every day, just to say 'Hi, this is what we're here for, this is what we're doing,'" said Alissa Ryan, a registered nurse in the core. "And if we see something, some oxygen saturation drops, we can camera in and say are you wearing your oxygen and have them reattach it."
Patients also can contact the core.
"There was a patient who camera-ed in to say goodbye when they were getting discharged," Ryan said. "They feel like they're part of the team."