Using iPads to enhance patient care and communication

Patients who are in isolation at Fiona Stanley Hospital have embraced a trial using iPads to communicate more frequently with nurses and clinicians while reducing physical contact.

The use of this technology in the hospital’s respiratory ward, where people with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus are being cared for, has enabled patients to have increased contact with their caregivers, whilst reducing the opportunity for infection to spread and the conservation of PPE, as caregivers don’t have to enter the patient’s room as frequently.  

The iPads are set up so that anyone at the Nurse Desk and Respiratory Doctors’ office can contact a patient directly using CISCO’s Jabber app, a webcam and headset, and be able to clearly see the patient without having to enter their room. 

While patients can call nurses via their in-room entertainment system, there is no video capability and nurses cannot initiate calls to patients. 
The iPad is positioned on the table next to the patient’s bed and automatically answers calls from the Nurses’ Station so a patient doesn’t have to pick it up and hold it if they are unable to. If there is a clinical need or no response, a nurse will enter the patient’s room. 

Since the iPads were introduced, nurses and doctors have been able to conduct virtual ward admissions and rounding. If a doctor or nurse does need to enter the patient’s room, they will ask if the patient needs anything to prevent having to re-enter the room multiple times. This small change in communication is significantly helping to conserve PPE. 

Nurses have been able to complete ward admissions and falls risk assessments using the iPads, and thanks to having vision of the patients, they can monitor people’s breathing and determine if a patient is deteriorating without having to spend long amounts of time in their room. Admitting doctors are also using the iPads to complete detailed patient histories, without unnecessary exposure. Some clinicians are now using the iPads as part of their ward rounds. 

Patients have welcomed the new system too and say that seeing their nurse’s face helps them to feel less isolated. They also value not having to wait for a nurse to respond to a call button to ask a question.  

The iPads offered additional benefits when a number of patients who could not speak English were admitted to the ward. Doctors and nurses were able to communicate directly with the patients without having to bring in translators via an instant translation app.  

“At one point we had 18 patients on our ward. Being able to use the iPads to take their medical history and monitor them all very closely while also limiting the physical exposure of our nurses, was an absolute god send,” Nurse Coordinator, Amberley Girando said. 

Roz Hanson, Serco’s Contract Director at FSH, says the pilot is a good example of teams working together and thinking differently about solving a problem. 

“When the Coronavirus situation began to escalate, we were concerned about our levels of PPE and the high use that was occurring as more patients needed to be in isolation and had high care needs. Our IT team came up with a way for nursing staff to communicate with patients without having to go into their room, using iPads that were already available.” 

“This proved particularly beneficial for patients where English was not their first language and the translation app was installed.”

“The end result has been improved patient communication and experience, judicious use of PPE and a new way of doing things that will likely remain in place beyond the Coronavirus pandemic.”