Publication date: Nov 30, 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown imposed drastic measures at hospitals internationally to rapidly pivot their approaches to patient care. Early on when the pandemic was declared, hospitals responded to local public health restrictions by limiting all non-essential visits for their patients. Digital devices allowed Canadians to remain connected with their friends and families during the imposed isolation restrictions. The aim of this clinical perspective is to share the experience with the immediate implementation of digital connections for patients by exploring the impact as well as to describe key learnings from the initiative. 150 iPads were distributed to clinical teams for use by patients, for either clinical care or for social connection. An iterative evaluation process, guided by quality improvement methodology, was followed which ensured that any changes to the iPad implementation process were responsive in real time. The evaluation measures included a clinician survey and collection of narratives from patients and clinicians. All clinician respondents (n=7) indicated that the iPads were a valuable tool to support patients and families. Narratives from patients indicated that virtual connections brought joy to them especially given that they were isolated from their support systems during the initial days of COVID-19. Key learnings for the Implementation Team were: the importance in maintaining cognitive stimulation as an enabler to recovery for patients; staff members provide support beyond direct clinical care; technology needs to be harnessed to facilitate clinical care; technology should be leveraged to support clinical care; and interprofesssional collaboration of the entire Implementation Team is a key enabler of success. Since implementation, iPads have been integrated as a supporting digital tool for both social connections as well as clinical care as a result of the benefits seen during this initiative. The iPads have also been recognized as a tool to complement patient connection and care and currently being expanded as part of services to patients, families and their clinicians.