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Virtual Discharge Assistant Cuts Readmissions, Costs

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2011

Now that patient satisfaction and patient experience are set to be tied to reimbursement, nurse leaders are looking for innovative solutions to improve these scores without adding tasks to already overworked staff.

One technological innovation that may become more common is the virtual discharge assistant. (Yes, companies may term these robots "discharge nurses," but as I wrote last week, using the term to refer to anything other than a member of the profession of nursing does a disservice to the profession.)

A virtual discharge advocate, named Louise has proven so successful in a pilot program at Boston Medical Center that 74% of patients in the study preferred to receive information from Louise rather than from a nurse or a physician.

The program is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to improve the patient discharge process. The Project Re-Engineered Hospital Discharge (Project RED) found that a thorough and well-implemented discharge plan can reduce readmissions by 30% and decrease costs per patient by $412.

Boston University Medical Center researchers identified the most common problems with discharge and made improving the problem areas the focus of Project RED. The researchers then identified 750 patients at Boston Medical Center and split them into two groups. One group received standard care. The other group received care based on the Project RED principles.

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