By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Is 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.