GREENVILLE, SC – Amy Kinard, a patient at Prisma Health, was able to “see” her husband Tony for the first time in a week last Friday, thanks to an innovative initiative to help equip patients with iPads so they can keep in touch with families and loved ones despite current visitation restrictions.
Mrs. Kinard, hospitalized and needing liver and kidney transplants, used the iPad to tell her husband of 23 years that she loved him. Said her husband of their “visit,” “It was a great thing. (Seeing) your loved one’s face when she’s telling you she loves you … is something we take for granted…. And it’s really hard when you can’t.”
The Kinards were some of the first patients and families able to visit thanks to “Prisma Health iVisit: Connecting Patients and Families Fund.” Prisma Health, like many other healthcare systems nationwide, initiated limited visitation for hospitalized patients to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Christy Keyes and her Prisma Health colleagues were motivated to find an alternate way for patients and families to communicate after seeing the impact that the inadvertent isolation was having on patients.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Keyes, a Prisma Health emergency physician. “It’s isolating and very frightening for patients not to be able to see loved ones. It’s a missing piece of what brings us comfort, what helps us to heal.”
After researching every aspect from technology needs and patient ease of use, to infection control-mandated cleaning requirements, Prisma Health opted to use iPads on rolling stands, a technology already in use in other areas. The collaborative effort quickly took shape under the direction of Harmony Robinson, Prisma Health’s director of nursing informatics.
“For patients to be able to virtually see and talk to their families during this time gives them a sense of comfort when their loved ones can’t be present at the bedside,” said Robinson. “It helps provide reassurance to patients when they’re alone and afraid. We’re all proud to be part of this effort.”
Nursing, information technology, infection control and other areas worked together quickly to develop a plan for safely deploying the iPads and stands to where they are most needed. Care teams at the bedsides will help assist patients in making the video calls if necessary.
“In my recent years at Prisma Health, I do not recall a time where we have seen so many areas of the organization work so hard and so swiftly to lift a project off the ground. We are living our purpose to inspire health, serve with compassion, and be the difference,” said Carolyn Swinton, the system’s chief nursing officer.
The first 70 iPads went out for patients to use last week in both the Upstate and the Midlands. Each iPad is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between uses. Additional iPads and stands are being configured to go to more patients throughout the system, said Robinson.
Support quickly stood up the Prisma Health iVisit: Connecting Patients and Families Fund to help fund and expand the project, which is entirely funded by donations and grants. Keyes and colleagues jumpstarted the effort, raising $23,000 in 24 hours by reaching out to family and friends.
“Separation in a crisis is everyone’s nightmare,” said Keyes. “Whether a healthcare worker or someone in the community, we are all moved by the idea of not being able to be there for those we care about. I hope we all embrace this project. Virtual connections are not nearly as warm as a physical presence and a comforting hand to hold, but being able to see the face and hear the voice of loved ones is a pretty good leap across the gap.”
The community can help connect patients to loved ones by donating to the iVisit: Connecting Patients and Families Fund at www.PrismaHealth.org/iVisit. Please note: Prisma Health cannot accept donated iPads.
About Prisma Health
Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and South Carolina’s largest private employer. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,984 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually. Its goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org.