Dr Ian Jackson talks from personal experience about the role and impact technology has in intensive care, and explains why he hopes to see intensive care units (ICUs) better equipped with communications technology.
I was unable to say goodbye to my own father in an ICU in Scotland, after a tragic accident in 2000. Travelling up to Scotland from my job at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to visit him, sadly I didn’t make it in time. I understand better than anyone, the importance of connecting families to their loved ones in ICU.
Particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, it has become too risky for family and friends to visit patients in ICUs. At present, most ICUs rely on apps like Facetime of Skype to connect with families of their patients, as they cannot come to visit. But this is concerning, as governance and security considerations haven’t been adhered to, as these apps haven’t been designed for sensitive medical use.
NHS nurses and clinicians are doing their absolute best in an incredibly challenging situation, and the importance of maintaining support and rapport between ICU staff and family members is paramount. However, a video and voice platform, like Refero’s, providing connections between clinicians and patients, certainly has an important role to play in keeping ICUs connected.
Patients would normally be admitted to intensive care and their family members would discuss their condition and care with the medical staff in the waiting room. A rapport is built between nursing staff and relatives; questions are answered and support is given. This is such an important part of helping the family come to terms with what has happened to their loved one.
Now, sadly and frustratingly for everyone involved, relatives only receive updates on the condition of their loved ones by phone, or by apps not created for a hospital environment.
There’s a huge chasm, communicating by telephone and not having that link to the nursing staff. Ideally you would have a secure route for communicating with relatives, so you would be able to recruit them onto a system that allows the medical team to link to these individuals.
It is more than video technology, it’s messaging as well. We use messaging much more these days as individuals, so we should have the ability to send messages instead of having constant phone calls to intensive care.
Medical staff and clinicians are often so busy that they can’t answer the phone or return the calls of family members for many hours. If you had the ability to use two-way messaging to the staff, and administrate that messaging so it goes to the most appropriate person to answer the question, then you can alleviate unnecessary worry and start to build up rapport.
By using Refero’s platform, a secure connection could be made between clinicians and family members. It could also help with the recovery process to include pre-recorded video messages and photos from relatives, and also from the patient to family and friends.
Better communication would not only benefit the mental health of families anxious for news but also encourage the patient on their road to recovery, or sadly help families understand better if their loved one didn’t pull through.
Living in unprecedented times, we need all the help and support available. Communications technology is such an important step forward in intensive care, it’s about bridging the divide to help relatives and patients on a difficult journey.