ST PAUL, Minnesota — COVID-19 has led to a lot of changes, including how patients connect with others.
Tighter visitor restrictions are in place at hospitals to help slow the spread of the virus but that means more patients are turning to iPads and tablets to see loved ones.
"It's been heartbreaking seeing patients come into the hospital and having their loved ones have to stay home," said Dr. Kaz Nelson, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota.
In order to help patients stay connected to their providers and loved ones, M Health Fairview has started an iPad initiative. iPads are currently in use at 9 of M Health Fairview's 10 hospitals. The only exception is Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital but it will soon be available at that location, as well.
"Of course with our infrastructure right now in our country, a lot of this equipment is on backorder or delayed. So if we're going to meet this need now, we're relying on donations in the meantime to make it happen," Dr. Nelson explained.
Of course, health care workers cannot avoid all contact with patients. But there are situations where video chat can be utilized. This can also help save scarce supplies like personal protective equipment.
"Of course there's going to be instances where members of our care team absolutely have to put on the face shield and the mask and the gown," Dr. Nelson said. "But if we can save equipment by using technology to do check-ins... 'How are you doing? How are the symptoms changing?' That's going to conserve supplies that we can use to serve our broader community."
They've used an iPad in the ER when a dying patient couldn't have all their family members in person for a conference about end-of-life care. Across the country, there have been multiple stories of families saying goodbye to loved ones via iPad. Although M Health Fairview makes compassionate care exceptions, visitor restrictions still limit the total number of family members that can be bedside with a patient. You can read more about visitor restrictions, here.
"Again, not ideal but certainly much better than if we don't have this technology," Dr. Nelson said.
The program started at Bethesda Hospital which is dedicated to caring for COVID-19 patients.
The iPads are being distributed in emergency departments and COVID-19 specialty care units within each hospital. The goal is to get them in every room and they would benefit all patients.
"Having a loved one on speaker phone or being able to video conference in frequently... can actually help with the well-being of that person in the hospital a great deal," Dr. Nelson said.
The health system is looking for iPads in good working condition with no cracks on the screen. It's preferred that they come with a power cable or other power supply. They also welcome stands and cases.
Standard iPad 5th Generation, models A1822 and A1823
Standard iPad 6th Generation, models A1893 and A1954
Standard iPad 7th Generation, models A2197, A2200 and A2198
iPad Air 3, models A2152, A2123, A2153, A2154
iPad Mini 5th Generation, models A2133, A2124, A2126, A2125
Any iPad Pro
Those interested in donating, should wipe the device of its data. M Health Fairview is not responsible for data remaining on it.
Fill out this form and bring it with your donation to the M Health Fairview Midway office main entrance, 1700 University Ave. W., St. Paul, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.