It has been one of the hardest aspects of being in hospital during COVID-19; but thanks to an initiative at Royal North Shore Hospital, patients and loved ones will no longer have to go without seeing each other.
The hospital’s Intensive Care Unit has installed webcams on existing bedside computers and trained nursing and social work staff in the use of videoconferencing software to ensure patients, including those with COVID-19, remain connected to the outside world.
Staff will operate the computer with patients to ensure they are able to call and see their loved ones without being restricted by their injuries or clinical requirements.
ICU Staff Specialist Dr Josh Pillemer said that the catalyst for this project was some of the restrictions on patient visitation.
"The project is intended to reduce the isolating effect of these restrictions, especially given the prospect of further restrictions in the event that COVID-19 becomes a larger problem.
“It is hard enough for our unwell patients in ICU without adding the extra challenge of removing the vital support that comes from visits from their loved ones” he said.
“In the past, patients had been haphazardly using their own devices for video calls – but this was not possible for many, given it required patients to have their own equipment and the faculties to use it.”
Dr Pillemer said that the isolation of being in ICU was particularly noticeable for those who were transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital far away from their homes.
“As a NSW Trauma Centre, as well as a state-wide burns and spinal cord injury service, we receive patients from all across NSW,” he said.
“Being able to facilitate communication with loved ones who are hours away is a tremendous service that helps patients, their families and the health service. Even when restrictions are relaxed again, I can see this providing a lasting benefit for all.”
Dr Pillemer said the flow on effects from the project would greatly benefit other areas of healthcare and enable families to play a key role in their loved one’s recovery.
“Having this technology available gives us the flexibility to expand the involvement of the patient in their own care through access to telemedicine services, inclusion in multidisciplinary family conferences which can include family from around the world, and provision of face-to-face language translation services,” he said.
“Well beyond COVID-19, this project has great potential to improve the way we care for our patients."