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i-CONNECT: How iPads are helping COVID patients and their families

Technology is providing vital communication in the most difficult of circumstances for patients suffering from COVID 19 on hospital wards. Visitors are not allowed on the ward so hospital staff were delighted when they were offered iPads to connect their patients with family for a virtual visit.

Staff had already witnessed so many heart-breaking situations which could be made a little bit better if families could only communicate with their loved ones.

A chance message between a doctor on the ward and a colleague at Hull York Medical School saw staff from the medical school spring into action, donating and setting up the university’s iPads for use by the most vulnerable patients on COVID 19 wards.

Dr Hester Baverstock, whose message set the ball rolling, said: “I couldn’t believe the speed with which our colleagues at the university reacted and their generosity in giving their own free time to set up the iPads to make this happen. In less than 24 hours we were using iPads on the wards so that the sickest of patients could see and speak to their loved ones.”

The Trust now has around 36 iPads for use on wards and these are also helping patients in other areas who cannot have their family visiting.

Dr Baverstock, who is a graduate and clinical tutor for the medical school, continued: “It’s not a new idea but it’s been an amazing tool to help people in extremely upsetting and difficult circumstances.”

Cardiology consultant, Dr Nigel Durham, has backed the initiative and has drafted in volunteers and support staff to help organise regular virtual visiting times for patients via the iPads.

Dr Durham said: “We are very grateful to our colleagues at Hull York Medical School for providing this technology that is making such a difference to patients and families at these most difficult of times. Dr Baverstock’s idea is inspirational.

“Our staff are working so hard in extraordinary circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic and it has been a great relief for them to be able to connect families whom are not able to be by the side of their loved ones. While the initiative is still in its infancy we are developing a strategy to make this available more widely for all patients within the hospital, who wish to partake, and we are already providing the service at Scarborough Hospital.”

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust senior management have given the project their full backing and have authorised the redeployment of staff to support the virtual visits on the wards.

Professor Una Macleod, Dean of Hull York Medical School said: “We understand how important it is for patients to remain connected to their loved ones during this time and are delighted to be able to work in partnership with York Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust to deliver this initiative.”

The Hull York Medical School student liaison teams based at York and Scarborough hospitals are helping co-ordinate the project and are expecting more iPads donated by Nestle and BT so the service can be made more widely available. The hospital Chaplains are also being provided iPads so staff can arrange virtual visits for patients.

A booking system is being made available so relatives can book a ‘virtual visit’ with their loved ones.  Families can email for a visit or they can call the wards directly.

iPads for Covid patients

21 April 2020

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