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Virtual Discharge Assistant Cuts Readmissions, Costs

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2011

Project RED patients used a discharge advocate who collated all their information and entered it into a software program that produced an After Hospital Care Plan (AHCP) for each patient.

AHCP is a thorough discharge summary. Along with information about medications and follow-up appointments, it contains images of pills and detailed instructions on when and how to take them. It also has color coded calendar information for follow up appointments, including directions to the medical facilities.

The discharge advocate reviews the AHCP with each patient to ensure thorough education and understanding. This is where the virtual component comes in. While vital that nurses talk with patients before discharge, much of patient education can be routine passing of information that is time-consuming and detracts nurses from other areas of patient care. The Project RED team brought in Louise to educate.

Louise is an animated face on a computer screen, complete with a touchscreen to allow patients to ask and answer questions, who simulates conversations with patients. She was modeled on actual human interactions between nurses and patients.

Louise reviews the AHCP with patients and her virtual face expresses emotions and even empathy with patients. She has endless patience and can cover information as many times as is necessary for patients to feel that they understand their discharge instructions. As she goes along, Louise asks patients questions to ensure they are actively participating and will present a list of options from which patients must select the right answer.

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