App allows ICU patients to be ‘heard’

December 20, 2012

SINGAPORE – When she was admitted to Changi General Hospital’s (CGH’s) intensive-care unit (ICU) two months ago, Claire (not her full name) was unable to tell nurses whenever she needed anything.

This was because the 19-year-old, who suffered from respiratory problems following a bad fall, was put on a breathing tube.

The tube, which was inserted through her mouth, passed through her vocal cords and made it impossible for her to speak. But her fears of not being heard were quickly allayed with the help of an iPad loaded with a special application.

Claire used the application on one of two iPads that have been in use in the hospital’s ICUs since April.

The Patient Care Communicator app comes in four languages – English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil – and has various features for patients to communicate with nurses and family members. The project costs $30,000.

The app has seven categories with words and pictures for patients to choose from to indicate their physical and emotional needs. Patients are also able to communicate by sketching or writing words.

It also includes a pain-management chart that allows patients to identify various parts of the body to convey the level of pain that they are facing in those areas.

The app was developed by CGH and national health-care information-technology company Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS), and is believed to be the first of its kind to be used in ICUs here.

Claire’s breathing tube was removed recently, and she was able to speak to My Paper yesterday, saying: “If I wanted to say something to my family, I could type it.”

She added that, previously, she would resort to gestures that they did not understand.

The nurse manager of CGH’s surgical ICU, Ms June Tan, said: “For health-care professionals, it improves our relationship with our patients, and helps us to overcome language barriers.

“There are pictures to guide patients along. It (the app) also improves the management of care, and we are able to understand the patient’s emotional, physical and psychological needs.”

Of the 63 patients and 41 nurses at CGH surveyed between June and September, 97 and 98 per cent respectively said that the app was effective for communication.

IHiS said that there is “potential” to roll out iPads loaded with the app at ICUs of other hospitals, and it will work with them to explore the app’s suitability for their operations.

Source: My Paper

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Category: Technology & Devices

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