‘Virtual visits’ ready for take-off following successful pilot

We can all relate to how important it is to our patients’ experience to have visitors during a hospital stay. The risks posed by COVID-19, however, have changed many aspects of our social interactions, and hospital visitation is one of them. With visitor restrictions now in place across all our sites, our Patient Experience team stepped up with the Workforce Mobilisation Team to enlist Monash Health Bureau nurses to run a pilot for a virtual visiting program.

Sandra Rogers, Manager, Patient Experience explained, “The program enables the use of technology to conduct a virtual visit, enhancing the current visitation that is allowed. This means we can continue to offer the benefits of connecting to loved ones, even from a distance.”

The pilot was conducted at Monash Medical Centre from the 6 to the 10 of April in ICU, Ward 31 North and South, and Ward 44. Priority groups for who the contact is particularly essential were identified for virtual visits, including ICU patients, end of life patients, patients with cognitive impairment such as dementia or delirium, and patients in isolation.

Two strategies were trialed; the first encouraged patients to bring their own devices for their stay to maintain contact with family and friends. The Virtual Visiting team assisted in downloading videoconferencing applications and connecting them to patient Wifi. The second strategy involved facilitated virtual visits for patients who did not have a device or were too unwell to use one. The facilitated visits were conducted during the standard visiting times of 1-3pm and 5-7pm.

“We have been encouraged by the results from the pilot, which was very successful and offered insights to refine and improve the experience. Overall, the program received extremely positive feedback from patients, families, and employees, and we’re pleased by how it has assisted in patient and family morale,” said Sandra.

As with any new program, it took dedication, and coordinated teamwork to get things off the ground, but it was worth the effort. Sandra explained, “I have to thank everyone involved in bringing about such a great morale boost to our patients and families. A special shout out to the wonderful team who conducted the pilot, including Alana Angel, Lance Selda, and Minzhuo Li. Your compassion, care, feedback, and considerable social media and app knowledge was instrumental in the success of the pilot.”

Program coordination and logistics are currently underway to roll out the program to Dandenong, Casey, and Moorabbin Hospitals, with the Virtual Visiting team preparing communication and guidelines which will be released soon to assist our inpatients in staying connected throughout the pandemic. So stay tuned for a bit of Skype, Webex, and Zoom coming to a ward near you soon.

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