Medicine Information

Web Therapy: Enhancing Patient Communication with Web Access

According to Jennifer Lyons' chart, she's just a bad slip and fall who's lucky enough to be on her way to a full recovery.

But to Jennifer, who is lying in bed with a broken mandible and broken limbs, nothing could be further from the truth. Jen was visiting the city on a business trip when her accident happened, and now she's lying in a bed 2,000 miles away from her family. Although her husband is flying in later tonight, never in her life has Jennifer felt more disconnected. That is, until her nurse points out the revolutionary screen standing next to her bed. Even though she can't move her mouth, two minutes later, Jennifer is catching up with her children.

Two floors down, Rebecca Forrester is also lying in bed with no family members around her. She's in her eighties and the fall she took is already developing a complication - pneumonia. Her daughter is working in Tokyo and will take a day to get to her side - a day Rebecca may not have. With no telephones in this ICU, Rebecca knows if her daughter doesn't make it to her in time, she may never be able to speak to her again. Until a nurses' aide enters with a wireless web pad. A minute later, Rebecca and her daughter are talking.

In a growing number of hospitals nationwide, hooking up your patients has just taken on a whole new meaning. Whether via wireless web pads, or bedside units, patient Internet access is revolutionizing patient care and patient communication.

Originally conceived as a way to reduce boredom and facilitate patient education, the units quickly began to add other features including relaxation videos, local TV channels, video games and telephones, besides videos and information patients can access on specific healthcare issues. Feedback is already showing what medical professionals have suspected for years -- people simply feel better when they're active and connected with the world around them. Even video games - just a welcome diversion for the rest of us - help patients take theirs mind off pain, requiring less pain medication. But patient Internet manufacturers didn't stop there. They also found a way to add a host of applications that increase bedside patient care in ways never before possible, by bringing the information age right to the bedside.

Many systems now integrate electronic medical record systems, bar code medication systems and even digital imaging directly into the web screen units. This means that doctors and nurses can do chart notes, look up lab results and in some cases order or dispense medications without leaving the patient's bedside. The web screens also make it easy to view diagnostic images or go over them with the patient. Not only does this save time and energy, it increases patient privacy.

But for the patients, it's all about facilitating communication whenever they need it - with loved ones, with friends or even with work. Just because someone is hospitalized doesn't mean they have to be isolated. For Jennifer Lyons, being able to communicate with her children means everything. Not only does she feel connected, because she can check in with them a few times a day, she feels more able to relax knowing that everything is fine at home.

As for Rebecca, she didn't fare as well. The pneumonia took hold and her daughter was unable to get to the hospital quickly enough to be with her before she passed away. But with the wireless web pad and a little help from her nurses' aide, Rebecca and her daughter spent the rest of the day writing back and forth, telling stories, sharing memories and making sure they said everything to each other, that they wanted to say. And to them, that made all the difference. Priceless.

For tools you and your staff can use to facilitate patient communication download a free copy of the Seven Steps to Successful Notification System, in PDF format, at the Next of Kin Education Project web site. Along with the Information Kit, you'll find patient chart pages and notification worksheets using the Seven Steps, that you can purchase and customize to use as part of your own charting system. You'll find them on the NOKEP web site along with reminder products like mouse pads, posters and coffee mugs, to keep the Seven Steps at your staff's fingertips.

Laura Greenwald, CEO/The Next of Kin Education Project

The Seven Steps Information Kit can be downloaded free of charge at The Reminder Products can be purchased at our NOKEP store

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