Computer Simulated Nurse

Technology Review – Researchers at Northeastern University have developed a virtual nurse and exercise coach that are surprisingly likable and effective Patients who interacted with a virtual nurse named Elizabeth said they preferred the computer simulation to an actual doctor or nurse because they didn’t feel rushed or talked down to.

A recent clinical trial of the technology found that Elizabeth also appears to have a beneficial effect on care. A month after discharge, people who interacted with the virtual nurse were more likely to know their diagnosis and to make a follow-up appointment with their primary-care doctor. The results of the study are currently under review for publication.

Timothy Bickmore (seen here with his virtual nurse system) will use a new grant to develop agents that help cancer patients. Photo by Lauren McFalls

To develop the computer-controlled avatars, researchers first recorded interactions between patients and nurses. They then tried to emulate the nurses’ nonverbal communication by endowing the virtual character with hand gestures and facial expressions. (The resulting animation is, however, much simpler than today’s sophisticated video games.)

Researchers also add small talk, asking users about local sports teams and the weather, which real nurses and coaches often do to put patients at ease. The verbal interactions are fairly basic; the nurse or trainer has a set repertoire of questions, and users choose from a selection of possible answers. For anything beyond that repertoire, the virtual agent will refer the patient to a human health-care provider.

“We already know we don’t have enough health-care providers to go around, and it’s only getting worse,” says Kvedar. “About 60 percent of the cost of delivering health care comes from human resources, so even if you can train more people, it’s not an ideal way to improve costs.”

Kvedar worked with Bickmore on a second, home-based trial, in which a virtual coach called Karen encouraged overweight sedentary adults to exercise. Users checked in with Karen three times a week, and she gave them recommendations and listened to their problems. Over 12 weeks, those who talked to the coach were significantly more active than those who simply had an accelerometer to record how much they walked.

Bickmore’s team is now working on a virtual nurse that would reside in the hospital room. Patients can talk to it about their hospital experience, report pain levels, and ask questions. The researchers are also integrating sensors into the system, to record when the patient is sleeping, for example, or to track when different doctors enter the room.

In a pilot study, patients had an average of 17 conversations with the nurse per day. “When we interviewed them afterward, we found that the agent seemed to be effective at addressing the loneliness you often feel if you’re at the hospital by yourself,” says Bickmore.

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2 thoughts on “Computer Simulated Nurse”

  1. It's pretty hard to reproduce everything nurses do, and of course it's even harder – to make everything they do in nowadays' outbreaks conditions when COVID appeared. By the way, I know plenty of good websites, which allow purchasing good nursing stuff like this site which an article, that describes maybe the best nursing shoes, which are not just comfortable, but also are durable enough.

  2. Well, answering the question of what do nurses do can be challenging due to the fact that nurses are skilled in many fields and may choose to focus their trade specifically in certain types of care. Some specific nursing fields include geriatrics, critical care, pediatrics, treatment planning, and case management. From working face-to-face with patients to managing their paperwork, nurses play a huge role in our lives and the profession continues to be a prosperous career path for those considering taking on this role. Not all registered nurses work in hospitals. You can find a nurse in a wide variety of health care settings, including doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, pharmacies, schools, and many other locations. Nurses have the ability to use their skills to meet the needs of their patients, pretty much wherever they are located. For example, many nurses now assist the elderly or disabled in their homes. They are continuously monitoring and evaluating patients, nurses must be smart, adaptive, educated and skilled in critical thinking. Nurses’ responsibilities include coordinating with multiple specialists to ensure that their patients are adequately on the road to recovery. Through the different types of care, a nurse’s capabilities extend past their stereotypical personas; while many envision nurses donned in medical scrubs and running through a hospital, a nurse may come in many forms.

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