Imagine for a moment you are an elderly person living in Melbourne during stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions. You have been admitted to hospital. You don’t own a mobile phone. You are not allowed any visitors. You are alone. You are isolated. You are scared. Most of all, you miss your family.
This is the exact scenario that many of our patients are facing right now in Melbourne. Strict hospital visitor restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in many patients not being able to receive regular visits from family or friends while in hospital.
Face to face visits may be limited at the moment, however, at Western Health we understand how important social connection is. We are offering a program we call “Virtual Visiting” to support our patients to video call family or friends. We estimate that up to 70% of all of our patients require some help to use smart devices to contact family. A designated Virtual Visiting lead has been linked with each Western Health ward. These staff spend time each day setting up Virtual Visit timeslots and offer technical support to patients or families who may need it.
Our record is 20 family members dialing in to chat with a patient at the same time! We would never be able to fit 20 family members in a patient’s room. =
Feedback on the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Comments from participants include:
“We cannot thank you enough for enabling this zoom session with our dad today. Dad was very confident because you were so patient and reassuring.”
“Thank-you so much for this. I had a really special birthday and got to see my mum, children and cat! What a special birthday”
“The virtual visits are fantastic. My brother and I enjoy seeing the exercises conducted with dad as it helps us understand how we can help him when he comes home and keep those exercises going. Even just the social chats are always nice as given the COVID situation, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to see him. We consider ourselves lucky that we can organise these visits borrowing the hospital iPads and computers, so thank you for that.”
Looking into the future, when more visitors are allowed back into the hospitals across Victoria, Virtual Visiting will be one innovation, developed as part of our COVID-19 response, that will be sustained ongoing to improve social connection for our patients.