When my grandmother was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit recently, I spent a lot of time in her hospital room. It was important for me to be there for her and to support my mother, but it was also interesting to see first-hand how the caregivers communicated with each other, with my grandmother and with our family.
This acute-care hospital in South Florida provides excellent medical care and is equipped with some of the latest healthcare technologies: an electronic medical record system by Siemens, Stryker hospital beds, Philips patient monitoring and Honeywell wireless barcode scanners. Yet the nurses and other caregivers were carrying outdated legacy phones with only limited functions.
One Respiratory Therapist came in to check on my grandmother, and was interrupted by a persistently ringing phone. She explained to me, “I know who that is, but I can’t answer their call right now. I’m too busy.”
The therapist wasn’t able to switch the phone to mute or vibrate, and had no way to let her colleague know she was with a patient. She couldn’t send a quick text message or change her status to busy. So her phone continued to ring while she examined my grandmother and discussed her treatment with my family.
Sitting in the ICU with a sick relative is very stressful for family members. Doctors and nurses have only a few minutes to spend with each patient. Every time they entered my grandmother’s room, I wanted to get as much information as possible, and it was important to feel that I had their full attention. The Respiratory Therapist’s constantly ringing phone was distracting to me, so I can only imagine it distracted her as well. That made me wonder if my grandmother was truly getting the best possible care.
As I sat with my grandma another evening, a 32-inch monitor powered on and a remote caregiver in a headset began looking into the room and taking notes on her vital signs. The technology behind this “eICU” system is impressive: Having an extra set of eyes and ears watching over critical patients from an offsite location can provide an additional layer of patient safety. While the technology is helpful, the way it was used needed improvement.
Having this person appear suddenly in the room felt invasive to me. She didn’t say hello or introduce herself, and neglected to explain what she was doing regarding my grandmother’s care. From the family’s perspective, it’s these little things that determine the perception of quality of care.
Healthcare technologies have come a long way in recent years, and continue to improve for everyone’s benefit. Yet hospitals and their staff need to remember that the human touch is still of primary importance in taking care of patients … and their families.
Naila Maroon is Marketing Communications Director at Voalte.