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Engineering
  

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.

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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
t.bickmore@neu.edu

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
IEEE
Pender McCarter
IEEE http://www.ieee.org

IEEE-USA http://www.ieeeusa.org

p.mccarter@ieee.org

Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
(310) 394-1811
http://www.hfes.org

lois@hfes.org


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