Minneapolis VA Health Care System
Using Technology to Care for Patients
During these uncertain times people are looking at new ways to connect and to stay safe. COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, has changed the way we act and interact with others and health care facilities are on the front lines of managing social distancing while caring for others. The Minneapolis VA Health Care System (VAHCS) is implementing technology to assist in reducing the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and allowing patients in isolation to connect with loved ones.
The iPad Video Monitoring and Assessment (iVMA) Pilot Program was created to assist health care providers during this time. This Pilot Program focuses on using technology in supporting health care providers as they conduct routine checks. Being it is a Pilot Program it is still being tested on how effective it is, but the initial assessment is positive.
The use of this technology allows health care providers the ability to monitor and care for their patients at a safe distance via video. This technology reduces the amount of times providers enter patient rooms for routine checks. Limiting the times in these rooms saves important supplies for critical times when it is absolutely necessary for a health care provider to enter a COVID room and treat a patient.
According to Ben Barrett, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Assistive Technology Program Coordinator and Beau Bedore, Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Center Assistive Technology Director, it is important to make this technology as easy as possible for all providers to use. All the provider needs to do is tap a shortcut on the iPad home screen to access the patient room iPad and link to the patient via video. The iPad in the patient room automatically connects as the auto-answer feature has been enabled to make it easy for use. Ben stated that “this feature only works when getting calls from one of the four designated provider iPads.” He also said that the testing was conducted on a ‘closed network’ to secure privacy of the patients. This is important for keeping access restricted to only the personnel who need access. The nurses on the ward are the responsible individuals for establishing this secure connection between devices.
The iPads in the patient rooms are mounted on an IV stand with a commercial mounting bracket. Having the iPads mounted on an IV stand allows for the stand to be placed where the patient can see the provider via video. Since the designated provider iPad automatically connects to the patient iPad there is no need for the patient to do anything for the connection.
The system was tested by nurses on the unit and staff were happy with the results. According to Britta Dass, Nurse Manager “The staff tested them with each other over the weekend and they appeared to work well!” Having this capability allows staff to do their job in another room while providing the best care to patients possible. This use of technology is critical for the safety of health care providers when they are doing their day-to-day checks on patients.
The iVMA Pilot Program also has the capability for families to talk with patients via video if they are in isolation. This technology gives families a way to connect with loved ones for moral support or for some, saying their last goodbyes. With such a great risk from COVID it is incredibly important to stay safe and this technology does that for all. Giving families the ability to connect can boost the patient’s morale.
We can get through this trying time and we will using this technology that helps protect health care providers and gives support to patients and loved ones.