Virtual Nurse, Always On Call

January 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Most people can't wait to go home after being in the hospital. But often patients go home not fully understanding their follow up care.The medications, follow-up visits and after care regimens are important, but many patients leave the hospital confused.

Computer Scientist Timothy Bickmore said, "About 20 percent of patients who are discharged from the hospital get readmitted within thirty days, several national studies have shown, and a third of those readmissions are preventable."

The average discharge conversation between a nurse and a patient lasts about eight minutes. Now a virtual patient advocate is helping patients.

"We worked with an animator to come up with a 3-D model and to create all of the animation segments the nurse delivers," said Bickmore.

Bickmore taped several doctors and nurses, then combined their verbal and gesture expressions into the animated character.

"So we have her do a little social chat and humor to have her build up a rapport," said Bickmore.

The touch screen computer can be wheeled to a patient's bed and is programmed with each patient's discharge instructions. Elizabeth can talk about the fifteen-hundred most commonly prescribed medications and quizzes patients to make sure they understand.

If the patient gets an answer wrong or has a question Elizabeth cannot answer, an alert is sent to the nurse.

Laura Pfeifer said, "There were a couple of things that I wanted to ask, but I could actually say something that I wanted to ask her and she would put that on an alert to give to the nurse."

Elizabeth is not a replacement for nurses ... just a helping hand for both staff and their patients.


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