Meet Two Virtual Nurses – Now Working in Medical Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

virtual nurse on dutyIs there a future for “virtual nurses” in healthcare? How about your medical practice or hospital?

Here are two intriguing examples of emerging technology—both labeled “virtual nurse”—that are being tested in the real world of marketing and healthcare delivery. Both interact with the public, although each virtual nurse has a different assignment. Can you see either of these helpful digital devices working in your hospital or medical practice?

The Virtual Nurse for Patient Discharge

In this first example, the digital discharge nurse—developed at Boston’s Northeastern University—is an on-screen avatar with a machine-made voice. While your first impression might be more like having a conversation with a simple video game of sorts, it turns out that “Elizabeth” is winning friends and fans.

“People actually liked [the computerized helper] better than a human,” according to test results. Patients can progress through the digital conversation at their own pace, which (surprisingly) includes engaging small talk about sports and weather, comforting expressions of empathy when needed…and, oh yea, a human healthcare professional as a “go-to” backup for issues.

You can meet Elizabeth via this demonstration video (excuse their ad) on Technology Review, published by MIT.

Holographic Nurse Fights Infection at the Front Door

Walk through the main entrance of University College London Hospital and you’ll know they take hand hygiene seriously. The life-size, “holographic” virtual nurse works tirelessly, greeting patients, staff and visitors with a good first impression. Her message about hand hygiene (complete with help-yourself hand gel dispensers) effectively communicates the hospital’s concern about infection control. (Compliance rates, they say, are up about ten-fold.)

Although we didn’t catch her name, this lobby ambassador has an English accent. Evidently anyone on the staff can become the projected image and message bearer, and the topic or purpose of the device can be changed easily. Here’s a video demonstration sample from across the pond.

Although these examples are distinctly different from each other in purpose and technology, they both appear to be useful and effective in communicating with the public, patients and staff. That said, both are digital substitutes for live-person interaction, and we wonder if that’s a completely appropriate concept for healthcare delivery. Where do you think this applies (or not) for you? Only human-originated comments welcome below.


Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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