Tablets, apps being deployed to improve Customer Service in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

After all, all those medical devices can be overwhelming, and an unfriendly or hurried staff can compound those feelings.  “There are so many patients on life support, and ventilators, and there are IVs and bags everywhere and you just don’t feel as if you have any control,” patient advocate Michelle Young told the Wall Street Journal, adding that “patients need more transparency and access and education on how to navigate the ICU.”

Here’s a look at some individual hospitals’ initiatives to use technology to encourage respectful treatment of patients and their families, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

•                Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital is using electronic “harms monitors” in the ICU.  In addition to encouraging clinical best practices in the form of checklists and reminders, the project calls for families to receive their own tablet to ask questions and become informed about the medical devices.  They can also choose tasks that they want to help the practitioners perform, such as washing a patient’s hair, the article says.

•                The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center is also giving families tablets.  The tablet contains information about the doctors, such as their identities and areas of specialization.

•                Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital is installing the so-called Patient-Centered Toolkit at the side of hospital beds in the ICU and adult oncology unit.  Patients can use the device to ask questions and learn more about their treatment plan.  Sometimes this can lead to conflict when a family disagrees with treatment decisions; however, the article also provides an example of a case in which a suggestion from a patient’s wife was helpful.

•                Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston also has plans to deploy information technology to improve care clinically, as well as in terms of customer service and person-to-person interaction.

BIDMC’s senior vice president for healthcare quality, Kenneth Sands, told the Wall Street Journal that prior to talking directly with patients and families, “we assumed that beeping and noise from machines would be a big distraction.”  However, it turns out that “they talked more about being approached and touched without adequate explanation,” he said.  The good news is that medical technology and apps can assist hospitals in acting on that low-tech insight.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 17 MAR 2015; Varun Saxena

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