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- PatientConnect is a program that enables patients to spend time with friends and family through virtual meetings
- In the program's first two weeks, PatientConnect was used more than 300 times
- The program is designed with process and security measures to protect patient privacy and leverages a web portal that’s available in multiple languages
As in-person visitors of patients admitted to the hospital continue to be limited, a new tool is helping to unite hospitalized COVID-19 patients with their loved ones. Massachusetts General Hospital launched PatientConnect, a program that enables patients to spend time with friends and family through virtual meetings.
While most patients may have a smartphone or a tablet that they can use while they are hospitalized, this is not always the case. Other patients are too sick to operate their own devices. To address this issue, various Mass General teams have collaborated to deploy a solution that includes a set of devices with secure Zoom accounts and a simple process to address the problem. The solution includes a multilingual portal that standardizes the connection process and is agnostic to the devices that the remote participants may own. Desktops, smartphones and telephones can serve as a means for remote participants to connect with their loved ones. Nursing and Patient Care Services, Information Systems, the Social Service Department, the Center for Equity and Inclusion, the Department of Medicine and the Center for TeleHealth at Mass General have worked closely together to bring the solution to fruition.
(PatientConnect) is fairly simple, but it addresses a critically important need, especially during these difficult times.
Senior Director, Virtual Consults Program at the Center for TeleHealth
"This is particularly helpful now that we are we are not allowing visitors, which limits our ability to provide compassionate care, especially for vulnerable patient populations" says Juan Estrada, senior director of the Virtual Consults Program at the Center for TeleHealth.
Though the PatientConnect project only launched a few weeks ago, today it is fully operational across all units in the hospital. Throughout the pandemic, the various teams involved have worked arduously in this and other related solutions, as Mass General leverages technology to help patients stay connected with their loved ones while also maintaining physical distancing measures.
Social Connection with Physical Distance
Many patients previously had no other way of communicating with their loved ones due to coronavirus safety restrictions.
"We have already heard various success stories of families that were able to see their loved ones in their last hours," says Estrada. "Even some of our care providers have been very relieved that this solution now exists because some of their loved ones passed away in the hospital without anyone by their sides."
In the program's first two weeks, PatientConnect was used more than 300 times.
In one example of its use since initiation, a nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU) used the technology to bring spiritual care and family member support to her patient. In another example, an iPad was used to bring loved ones together for a wedding held in the ICU. A chaplain performed the ceremony, while the patient's and bride's family joined over video to watch remotely.
Physicians can also use the devices to set up meetings with their patients and invite interpreters and other care providers to participate.
How it Works
The program is designed with process and security measures to protect patient privacy.
“We are constantly trying to strike a balance between keeping programs secure and making them easy to use,” says Benjamin Meller, technology and operations manager for the Center for TeleHealth. “With PatientConnect, we needed to create guard rails to ensure that the right visitor would be meeting with the right patient, without making the system too difficult to use.”
To meet these requirements, the team created a website to guide new users through launching a Zoom meeting. The site was translated into multiple languages and allows unit staff to give visitors unique meeting IDs for each patient visit.
From a user's perspective, the PatientConnect program is straightforward:
- The in-unit staff, or social workers, set up a Zoom meeting and then provide the details of that meeting to remote users, such as the patient's family
- The devices have a stand so they can be left in the room for the patient to use and return at the end of the session
- When it is time for the meeting, the remote users join the meeting through a simple website that provides access instructions in five different languages
- The remote user logs in for a video call, or calls in via phones for group meetings and connects to the patient
"It is fairly simple, but it addresses a critically important need, especially during these difficult times," says Estrada.
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