VIRTUAL VISIT BASICS
AdventHealth recently launched virtual visits for hospitalized patients with the distribution of 1,000 Chromebooks and some iPads throughout the health system's hospital campuses, Guler says. The cost of the initiative was minimal because the Chromebooks were already in hand for another project, which has been delayed, she says. "The investment has been more about helping our team members to understand what they need to do."
With help from the health system's information technology staff, Guler has a team of 65 experience leaders who facilitate the virtual visits. In one recent week, the health system conducted 1,350 virtual visits. "Our information technology staff loaded the Chromebooks in a way to make it as easy as possible to use Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Facetime. We are using Google Hangouts quite a bit for video chats."
CORONAVIRUS PATIENT VIRTUAL VISITS
AdventHealth has put protocols in place for hospitalized COVID-19 patients to have virtual visits with loved ones, including for end-of-life situations, Guler says.
There are three primary considerations for virtual visits with all COVID-19 patients:
To limit the number of people in a patient's room for infection control, a bedside caregiver in full personal protective equipment brings a Chromebook or other device into the room.
The device can be held by the bedside caregiver or placed on a bedside table if the family requests privacy for the virtual visit.
After the virtual visit, a disinfectant is used to sterilize the Chromebook or other devices.
The protocols for end-of-life situations are more involved, she says. "We have to facilitate calls more when there is an end-of-life scenario and the patient is not able to be an active participant."
The first step is for an experience leader to contact the family and to see whether they want to have a virtual visit. Then the family is asked whether they want to have a hospital chaplain included in the virtual visit.
Once a virtual visit has been arranged, an experience leader initiates the call to the family and hands off the device to a bedside caregiver outside the patient's room. In most cases, the bedside caregiver holds the device, so the family gets a full view of the patient.
Although ICU bedside caregivers are experienced in working with the families of dying patients, they have received training to help them facilitate virtual visits, Guler says.
"This is a very deep and meaningful situation and interaction, and we have shared some words the caregivers might say. They may ask the family whether there is anything they can do to be the family's hands as the family is talking with their loved one, such as, 'Can I touch your loved one's hand?' They have protective equipment on, but they can be the hands of the family. The caregivers try to do anything they can to bring a human touch to this virtual experience."
Many family members can participate in an end-of-life virtual visit, she says. "In one end-of-life situation, we had 15 family members on the virtual chat, along with their family pastor. The patient could not respond, but the family was able to say some last words. They said how much they loved the patient. Their pastor prayed with them. It was deeply meaningful and facilitated by a caregiver who held the device. In that situation, the caregiver did not need to say anything."
THE NEW NORMAL
AdventHealth plans to continue providing virtual visits for hospitalized patients after the COVID-19 crisis is over, Guler says.
"We want to continue virtual visits in the future. Even in a non-COVID-19 scenario, we often have patients who have family across the country. With this platform now in place, contact does not just have to be through telephone. We are already exploring ways that we can have virtual visits in the future in a non-COVID-19 world."
—Adapted from "How to Use Virtual Visits to Connect Coronavirus Patients With Loved Ones," HealthLeaders, by Christopher Cheney, May 1, 2020.
We Must Stay Informed
We have long known that when it comes to health outcomes in America, inequalities have persisted along racial lines. The recent coronavirus pandemic has shined an ugly light on these disparities as severe cases of COVID 19, the illness caused by the virus, are disproportionately affecting African American and Hispanic/Latino communities at a higher rate. While much is still unknown about the virus, it has become increasingly clear that it is impacting many vulnerable segments of our society. However, in America, that vulnerability is highly intersected with race and poverty.
What steps should we take to stay safe and avoid further spread of the virus? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps:
Know How It Spreads
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within six feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
Clean Your Hands Often
Wash often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid Close Contact
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home as much as possible and avoid large groups, and put distance between yourself and other people.
Cover Your Mouth and Nose
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others. Everyone should wear a face cover when they have to go out in public, such as to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Continue to keep about six feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
Cover Coughs and Sneezes
Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
—Adapted from “We Must Stay Informed,” Black News Portal, by Kenny McMorris, FACHE, CEO, Charles Drew Health Center, Inc., Omaha, Neb. April 2020
COVID-19 Career Webinar Series Post-Pandemic Job Market: How to Prepare and Not Panic — June 4, 3 – 4pm CST
Self-Care to Care for Others in Crisis — June 11, 3 – 4 pm CST
These webinars are free and eligible for 1 ACHE Qualified Education credit each.