Making the right choices for hospital virtual care technology

Brad Storm By Brad Storm, VP Technologies & Integrations
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No healthcare strategy includes adopting a new initiative under duress.

But that’s exactly what many hospitals had to do in the face of COVID-19, when clinicians were desperate to communicate safely, quickly, and effectively with patients and their families.

Trying to adapt the ideas from at-home telehealth with whatever technology was easy to get—often simply consumer-grade tablets or video monitors—became the hasty foundation for what virtual care in a hospital setting could be.

Those early days of virtual care in inpatient environments brought a lot of good lessons about what’s reliable, what’s scalable, what’s effective, and—just as important—what’s not.

In the years since, hospital executives now have a beat to create long-term strategies for virtual care.

Here are some critical questions to consider for hospitals to implement the best inpatient telehealth setup.

What do your nurses have to say?

Nurses are frequently the ones tasked with facilitating virtual care calls. Talk with them about how this affects their workflows. Do they feel they’re losing clinical time coordinating calls, or are they being more efficient with their workload?

What kinds of tasks could be shifted to be virtually done from a command center? (Think: Admissions interviews, education and medication review, observation rounding, discharge instructions.)

What equipment do they recommend for ease of use and reliability?

Involving your nurses in your virtual care decisions is critical to supporting them and addressing some of the issues that come with staff shortages, burnout, and inefficient processes.

Give them a voice, and listen to their suggestions. They’ll be much more likely to embrace a strategy and adopt initiatives they are part of from the beginning.

What are your patient demographics?

Think about the digital health literacy of the populations you serve, what kinds of technologies they’re familiar with using, and if there are common physical or mobility issues that may affect their ability to interact during a virtual care call.

For many acute care hospitals, more than half of their patients are 60 and older. In children’s hospitals, the pediatric patients’ caregivers tend to be younger and are typically quite tech-savvy.

Like the staff who will be using your virtual care solution, take the patients who will be using it into consideration, too.

Patient experience professionals will have great insight into the kind of setup patients (and their families) will be most comfortable with and willing to use.

What equipment and infrastructure is needed?

With input from the people who will be using virtual care, start to narrow down the technology needed to make it successful, sustainable, and within your budget.

If you already have hardware in patient rooms, such as a television, can it be used for your virtual care setup? If you’ve been using tablets, are they working well or is there a better alternative to think about?

Talk with providers and clinicians about the kind of camera and microphone capabilities they’ll need for the use cases they’ll be part of. Can the camera be controlled to zoom in to specific areas of the room? Is the microphone sensitive enough for ambient listening?

Should there be something permanently mounted in each room, or are mobile carts the best option?

Once the equipment is decided, make sure you have the infrastructure to support it, including access to power and secure network connectivity.

How does the solution integrate with your other systems?

Interoperability is a major part of a successful long-term strategy for virtual care. Like any technology system, virtual care can be most effective if it integrates with workflows your staff already use, especially for EHR, scheduling, education, screenings, and discharge. Integrated systems will make it much easier to scale and standardize enterprise-wide going forward.

For example, if you have an interactive patient engagement system in patient rooms, all the systems can link together on one platform, drastically simplifying where clinicians have to log in for patient care, as well as how patients can access the information, education, and consultations they need.

Virtual care is becoming part of a standard smart hospital room, so creating a cohesive and seamless experience on the user end will vastly improve its value.

How will you track effectiveness and ROI?

Adding technology to a hospital setting is never a small feat. Make sure your virtual care investment is worth it by identifying how you will track its effectiveness, and what your plan is for roll-out.

Will you have access to data and analytics about virtual care encounters? Professional and anecdotal insights about use cases? Consultations about ongoing optimizations?

Is there a specific unit or use case you will pilot your virtual care technology with first? What’s the go-no go plan for rolling out to other areas? What’s the role of virtual care for both your short-term goals and long-term goals?


Having the right people in the conversations as well as the right technology in the spaces will be key to making sure your virtual care strategy is the most beneficial for your clinicians, patients, and families both now and in the future.



Editor’s note: This article was originally published on

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