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iPad visits

More than 200 iPads installed around campus make virtual visitations possible

More than 200 iPads installed around Upstate University Hospital and its Community Hospital have helped patients and families stay connected during the COVID pandemic.

But the devices also have been used by the medical staff as a safe way to check in with patients from outside the patient’s room, thereby conserving the hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment or PPE.

The iPads were purchased through donations to the Upstate Foundation’s Virtual Visitation Fund for Patients, with the largest gift—$50,000—coming from Cisco.

“It has been one of the most successful COVID-related funds,” said Eileen Pezzi, MPA, Upstate’s vice president for development and executive director of the Upstate Foundation. “Everyone wanted to help ensure that patients and families could remain connected, especially at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. We’re grateful to Cisco for its lead gift and all those who gave generously on behalf of our patients and families.”

“Those who are affected and serve on the front lines of combatting the global pandemic are faced with extraordinary challenges, and we believe it is our responsibility as business leaders to step up and offer support,” said Ned Cabot, Director of Country Digitization, Americas at Cisco. “We are proud to provide a valuable solution that is helping connect patients and their families during these challenging times, and want to thank the Upstate medical team for their continued partnership and leadership.”

Upstate—as well as all hospitals throughout the state—suspended visitations for health and safety reasons in March when the state took steps to halt the spread of COVID-19.

That move meant no families or loved ones could visit with any patients. Keeping families connected through hospitalizations has a significant impact on a patient’s health and well-being. 

“What about virtual visitations?” administrators asked.

Josh Onyan, BSN, RN, manager of Upstate’s Stroke Program who had significant experience with video and telemedicine from his work developing the hospital’s telestroke program, played a key role in coordinating the virtual visitation effort, ensuring a seamless rollout of the technology in Upstate’s dedicated COVID units.

“We found immediate buy-in from nursing staff and hospitalists working on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic,” Onyan said. “They embraced the new technology, saw it as a vital tool in the delivery of care and keeping patients connected with families.”

With the iPads purchased, Upstate Information Management and Technology fast-tracked the work to make certain all the connections worked.

“This project was a priority for Upstate, as we knew the potential benefit it would bring our patients and staff,” said Upstate Chief Information Officer Mark Zeman. “The program has proved to be extremely successful from everyone’s perspective.”

Zeman notes that the iPad program has helped Upstate better conserve its supply of PPE. When appropriate, iPads can be used by nurses, physicians and other members of the patient care team to effectively communicate directly with the patient while remaining outside the patient’s room. Not needing to enter a room on a COVID unit, helps save on PPE.

Discharge planning and an end-of-life discussion with family members from different locations across the country were also facilitated through the use of the iPads.

“A virtual visit cannot replace the physical presence of a loved one,” said Vicki Casper, MSN, RN, a nurse manager on one of the COVID units at Community that used the iPads. “But when families cannot be at the bedside, seeing the faces of loved ones—even through technology—can make all the difference in one’s outlook.”

Casper and others agree, that post-COVID the iPad program is here to stay as it will continue to help make connections with isolated patients and families unable to visit.

“There’s no turning away from technology in medicine today,” Onyan said. “The use of iPads and other technology during this pandemic proves how vital these tools are for our medical team and for the patient experience.”

Caption: The iPads make possible virtual visits with families and medical staff.