As the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread among the American population, health care teams at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center are using everyday technology to maintain face-to-face interaction with their patients.
“We are limiting traditional contact with patients presenting in the emergency department,” said Alan Sorkey, M.D., the physician in charge of Shreveport VA Emergency Department (ED) operations. “Everyone in the emergency department plays a key role in patient care. If one person is removed from a health care team, it will limit our ability as more patients are expected.”
Using technology already available at the Shreveport VA, Sorkey implemented the use of paired iPads in the ED. Each iPad is labeled either “Patient” or “Physician.” When a Veteran presents to the ED and is assigned an exam room, that patient receives an iPad already connected using Facetime.
“We already use similar technology connecting with Veterans in their homes through virtual care every day in the VA,” said Sorkey, who is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. “We just haven’t used this virtual mode of communication from room to room in the hospital.”
After patient use, the iPad is retrieved and thoroughly disinfected. VA staff use disinfectant wipes with known ingredients that kill COVID-19. When a new patient arrives, the iPad is ready to stream, allowing a seamless method of communication between the patient and their health care team.
“I enjoy emergency medicine because of the challenge of not knowing what we see next and the problem solving required to get things done,” said Sorkey, an Air Force veteran who now serves as the chief emergency medicine consultant for a four-state region with eight VA medical centers. “I hope community hospitals will adopt a similar practice. Not only to reduce the risk of patient to health care worker infection, but to maintain that critical face-to-face communication with patients.”