Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 12/19/2012 00:02 | By Channel NewsAsia

ICU patients use iPads to communicate with nurses

ICU patients use iPads to communicate with nurses

ICU patients use iPads to communicate with nurses

SINGAPORE: A hospital is believed to be the first in Singapore to let patients recovering in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) use iPads to communicate with nurses and family.

Developed by Changi General Hospital (CGH) and Integrated Health Information Systems, the iPad app "Patient Care Communicator" was introduced in ICUs in April.

Since then, about 80 patients have benefited from it.

One patient who benefited from this new app is 19—year—old Claire.

Claire, who was put on a breathing tube for two weeks when she was admitted to hospital two months ago, was unable to speak and could only communicate with staff through gestures during that time.

Claire said: "I was on breathing tube so they had to tie my hand. My face was itching. I wanted them to release it, so I could scratch my face, but they didn’t understand. So they kept asking me, ’Are you having a headache?’ I’m like, no, but I couldn’t speak, so they didn’t understand."

To ease her difficulties, nurses introduced Claire to the iPad app, to which the 19—year—old "was able to tell them where it hurts and was able to communicate better".

The "Patient Care Communicator" app has seven categories with words and pictures for patients to choose from to meet their physical and emotional needs. The app also allows patients to communicate by sketching or writing words.

There is also a pain management chart with a diagram of a body.

CGH’s Medical ICU Nurse Manager Zhang Li said: "In the past what we do is, when such patients have needs to communicate, they will use sign language, gesturing or we have to read their lips. Or sometimes, they will use pen and paper. But when they are in a very critical condition, sometimes the hands are not very steady to hold to write, so it’s difficult to recognise their handwriting as well."

But with the app, "the patients can use the zoom in, zoom out function, to point exactly which part of the body they are feeling pain or discomfort.

"Also at the side, there is a pain chart scale by using the smiley face to tell us the severity of the pain," Zhang added.

A recent survey conducted on 63 patients in June to September 2012 showed that 97 percent of patients found the iPad effective in communicating with nurses, while 98 percent of nurses surveyed in the same period found the iPad effective in communicating with patients.

Based on feedback from staff and patients, new enhancements were made to the devices. In addition to bigger pictures and larger fonts, three languages were also added.

The app is now available in four languages —— English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese.

Going forward, nurses hope to incorporate more languages in the app, and have more iPads for use in the ICU.

Currently, two iPads are used in the ICU wards.

— CNA/ck/lp

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