Emergency department staff at Stanford Health Care first started using iPads to help care for COVID-19 patients in late March but soon discovered that that the benefits of this type of communication were far greater than they first anticipated.
Ryan Ribiera, MD, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine, revealed: “Far from separating us from our patients, it is actually expanding on what we can do.”
Before staff started connecting with isolated patients via iPad, they were required to put on the appropriate personal protective equipment, including a paper gown, two sets of gloves, goggles, and a mask that obscured the majority of their face.
Not only did this take up a lot of valuable time that doctors, nurses and other caregivers could have spent actually interacting and caring for their patients, but it also resulted in those infected with COVID-19 feeling even more isolated and separated from the outside world.
Cati Brown Johnson, PhD, a researcher who has studied compassion in medicine, has said: “While protective gear during the coronavirus outbreak signals competence, it also masks the facial cues that can be reassuring to a frightened patient.”
The emergency department currently has 120 centrally managed iPad devices, which allow staff to conduct any visit with their patients, as long as they do not require hands-on care.
The devices are placed at the patient’s eye level to ensure maximum connection and engagement with the appropriate physician or nurse in the emergency department of the facility.
Reduced need for PPE and Improved Patient Moral
Since utilising the iPads, the emergency staff has reported a noticeable difference in the morale of their COVID-19 patients, revealing that the smiles and facial reassurances that they can offer via these devices are dramatically improving the overall level of care that they can give.
The health care facility has also revealed that since using iPads to connect with those in isolation, they have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of PPE that they need to use – saving an estimated 80-120 sets per day.
Currently, the department is looking into ways that these devices can be used once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. For example, to speed up consultations and to connect patients with interpreters remotely.
Meanwhile, in Stanford Medicine’s COVID-19 drive-through testing sites, patients are also being met with a personal smile rather than just a mask.
Other ways to help improve patient care
Using just a smartphone, a printer and some adhesive labels, the nurses are provided with disposable headshots that they can attach to their protective clothing.
Anna Chico, RN, was one of the first nurses to try out the headshots, said: “When they drove up to me, I would introduce myself and point to my picture saying, ‘This is me under all this.’ One patient actually said, ‘I love your picture’… it enhanced my interaction with my patients, as they were able to see me and not just a full suit of PPE.”
She added: “It’s so important to establish that human connection, especially in these times of social distancing and isolation.”
Could UK hospitals implement similar techniques to improve the care given and reduce the need for PPE?