Computer Science

Earth Science









Sign-up for FTK Bulletin


Virtual Nurse: Always On Call

BOSTON (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Most people can't wait to get released from the hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest statistics say nearly 40 million patients, excluding infants, are discharged each year. But often patients go home not fully understanding their follow up care. Now, new computer technology could virtually clear up all the confusion.

You need Flash Player 8 or higher to view video content with the ROO Flash Player. Click here to download and install it.

The medications, follow-up visits and after care regimens are important, but many patients leave the hospital confused.

"About 20 percent of patients who are discharged from the hospital get readmitted within thirty days, several national studies have shown, and a third of those readmissions are preventable," Timothy Bickmore, a computer scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, told Ivanhoe.

The average discharge conversation between a nurse and patient lasts about eight minutes. Now, a virtual patient advocate is helping patients.

"We worked with an animator to come up with a 3-D model and to create all of the animation segments the nurse delivers," Bickmore explained.

Bickmore taped several doctors and nurses and then combined their verbal and gesture expressions into the animated character.

The touch screen computer can be wheeled to a patient's bed and is programmed with each patient's discharge instructions. Elizabeth can talk about the 1,500 most commonly prescribed medications and quizzes patients to make sure they understand.

If the patient gets an answer wrong or has a question Elizabeth cannot answer, an alert is sent to the nurse.

"There were a couple of things that I wanted to ask, but I could actually say something that I wanted to ask her and she would put that on an alert to give to the nurse," Laura Pfeifer, who tested the new technology, said.

Elizabeth is not a replacement for nurses … just a helping hand for both staff and their patients.

The system is currently in clinical trials. Eventually Bickmore hopes to create an application where patient's can talk to the virtual patient advocate while recuperating at home.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Timothy W. Bickmore, PhD
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
(617) 373-5477

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Pender McCarter


Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
(310) 394-1811

This Month's TV Reports
Tracking Down Tax Evaders

Forget speeding … now cops have a new reason to pull you over! Cop cars equipped with new technology are helping the police track down people who owe the government cash!


Key 2 Safe Driving

A new device that keeps kids from being distracted when they’re driving. We’ll show you how it helps teens keep their eyes on the road


Inside a Mummy

Cutting-edge technology gives us a glimpse inside a mummy and uncovering mysteries 2,000 years old


Vacation in Space

Your next vacation could be out of this world! We’ll show you the race for space tourism. A trip to the stars is closer than you think!


Building ‘Super’ Hands

Bioengineering is giving people better, stronger hands. Science has found a simple diagnostic tool that could make a dramatic difference for thousands of people


New Blood Breakthrough

Seventy thousand people suffer from sickle cell disease. Now, a new type of blood breakthrough may relieve patients of their pain and give them new hope for their future


Virtual Nurse: Always on Call

Forty million people are discharged from the hospital each year. Now, new computer technology could send a nurse home with patients and clear up all their confusion


Tracking Tsunamis

December marks the 5th anniversary of one of the worst tsunamis to ever hit. Now, something from space may help to predict the next disastrous wave and save thousand of lives


Electronic Wine Taster

Whether it’s red or white, when it comes to judging wine, wine lovers may have more than just their own mouth to rely on … an electronic tongue is turning into an expert wine taster


Cheers! Healthy Holiday Drinks

Holly isn’t just a festive decoration … it could save your life! Fill you Christmas mugs with some healthy holiday drinks


Science of Shopping

This holiday season, stores are doing everything they can to lure you in. The science behind why you buy and don’t buy


Prior Reports
A joint production of Ivanhoe Broadcast News and the American Institute of Physics.
  Ivanhoe Broadcast News
2745 West Fairbanks Avenue
Winter Park, Florida 32789
(407) 740-0789

American Institute of Physics
One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 19740-3843
(301) 209-3100
  P.O. Box 865
Orlando, Florida 32802
  © 2009 Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc.