Tablets, apps foster better patient care, communications in ICU environments

Mobile apps and computing devices are boosting patient care outcomes in the intensive care unit environment, as well as enhancing communication between patients and care providers, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The tech is also shoring up treatment in regards to respect and dignity within such a critical care scenario, which caregivers believe is as valuable as successfully fighting potential infection, the report says.

"We are broadening the definition of harm to include disrespectful care, which is every bit as important as an infection in the ICU," Peter Pronovost, a critical care physician and director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, tells the WSJ.

Johns Hopkins is deploying a "harms monitor" system, in which patients and families are provided tablets for tracking care issues and gaining insight on care operations. For doctors, the system tracks everything from preventative measures to patient reactions such as reduced mental function. It uses a stop light color-based system (red is critical, green is completed) to track what needs to be done with treatment and lets family members and the patient have an active role in treatment.

An increasing number of hospitals are tapping tablets to boost patient care as well as communication. Miami Children's Hospital has created a "hand-off app" for the clinical side, which lets caregivers share information, and is developing a mobile discharge process that lets parents view a child's discharge instructions and video on a phone. Meanwhile, Tampa-based BayCare is using an app and tablet system for nurse managers who visit patients to capture patient feedback and manage patient-related tasks. The data is fed into a dashboard that provides a deep look at care and issues.

Healthcare leaders at the University of California, San Francisco, which is following the Hopkins approach, tell WSJ that the tablet system helps patients and families track the care providers involved and what individual roles they play in the treatment process.

"There are so many patients on life support, and ventilators, and there are IVs and bags everywhere and you just don't feel as if you have any control," Michelle Young, a UCSF advisory council member, tells the paper. "Patients need more transparency and access and education on how to navigate the ICU."

For more information:
- read the Wall Street Journal report

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