Nurses are leaving their arduous jobs with experts in droves prediction the U.S. healthcare system will have a shortage of 2.1 million nurses by 2025. To help address this burnout crisis and critical workforce shortage, the Nashville-based hospital company Flame health services is introducing virtual nurse technology at its Albuquerque hospital.
Care.ai, which was founded in 2018, sells a virtual nursing solution that allows virtual nurses to handle patient care and administrative tasks that do not require physical proximity. The company said Lovelace was one of the first providers to implement its virtual breastfeeding technology, although it could not share the names of other customers at this stage.
“This enables nurses to focus their time on the most important clinical and compassionate elements of providing care to people,” said Care.ai CEO and founder Chakri Toleti. “This eases the burden on stressed nurses and allows them to spend more time caring for patients, a job they are uniquely equipped to do.”
With Care.ai’s product, patients can interact with virtual nurses through their room TV. These virtual nurses can provide assistance with a variety of tasks, such as routine monitoring, documentation and educating patients about their treatment plans, Tolletti said.
The virtual nursing product is designed to support, not replace, on-site nurses. The solution is designed to streamline admissions, rounding, discharge and other clinical and operational workflows, Tolletti explained. He said the ultimate goal of the product is to improve patient satisfaction, increase staff retention and reduce operating costs.
“An estimated 1.2 million new registered nurses will reportedly be needed by 2030 to address the current shortage in the U.S., adding pressure to an already strained system,” Tolletti said. “Challenges related to nursing shortages and staff retention in the healthcare system have taken a heavy toll on care teams, both physically and mentally.”
In addition to freeing up nurses’ time, Tolletti said Care.ai’s product will also “broaden the nursing workforce by unlocking new career paths for experienced nurses who may have physical limitations or prefer a different work environment .”
For example, John Donga, a nurse at Lovelace, suffered an injury that prevented him from working on the floor. Through the newly introduced virtual nursing program, he has been able to serve patients virtually and “pursue a career he loves,” Tolletti said.
Care.ai’s virtual nursing product is a module that is integrated into the provider’s broader “Smart Care Facility” platform, which includes functionalities such as virtual visits and 24/7 environmental monitoring sensors.
This is a difference that separates Care.ai from its competitors in the virtual nursing space, such as CareAngel. According to Tolletti, other companies in the space offer an “array of point solutions,” which puts vendors at risk of further fragmenting complex workflows.
“For example, the majority of healthcare facilities today rely on cameras or clinicians to manually monitor — or ‘sit’ — patients. However, it is impossible for care teams to monitor all their patients at once, especially when they are bogged down in routine tasks and data collection,” he said.
In contrast, Care.ai provides virtual monitoring not as a stand-alone product, but rather as a flexible and included feature of its larger platform, Tolletti explained.