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New video call system connects ICU patients with their families at UHG

Families of patients being treated in the ICU at University Hospital Galway are now able to connect with their loved ones and the people caring for them through a new video call system.

The ICU FamilyLink system is a key lifeline for worrying families since visiting is not allowed at the hospital right now in order to protect patients, staff, and the public from Covid-19.

When visiting restrictions were first put in place at Galway University Hospitals back in March, the ICU team in Galway appreciated that it was going to be very difficult to keep families and patients updated and connected, particularly where people may be isolating in different locations.

Luckily Galway has an extremely strong tech sector, many of the companies in which already have links to the hospital, or are otherwise helping out in the current crisis.

The ICU team reached out to its academic partners in NUI Galway, who in turned reached out to industry contacts in Galway and beyond.

NUI Galway, Cisco and IBM assembled a team to answer the call and working closely with the ICU and Clinical Engineering teams in UHG, have rapidly developed a state-of-the-art video call system specifically for the ICU setting.

The FamilyLink runs on the hospital’s Cisco Enterprise Wireless Network using Cisco Webex Meetings software and Cisco Webex Devices donated from the company’s software development office in Oranmore.

It’s designed to be easy to use, with families invited to a call by the nurses caring for patients so they can not only speak with their loved ones, but see their faces.

It also gives families some face to face time with the clinicians themselves to discuss medical treatments and provide advice, something that has become more challenging in circumstances where people are distancing

Of course any unfamiliar piece of technology is going to cause the odd issue for new users, especially one in stressful circumstances.

That’s where a team of IBM volunteers come in, who are available by phone to family members to offer any technical support.

Chris Kane, Hospital Manager said, “We are very grateful to everyone who has given their time and expertise to support the delivery of such an important project in such a short timeframe.”

“The last number of weeks have been very difficult for patients in ICU and their families; the staff recognised this and wanted to do something to support them.”

The new system has already been well received, with Maura McNamara from Galway City whose husband was treated at UHG saying they got the opportunity to use it while he was in the ICU.

“It was fantastic to get to see him and how he was doing and get updates from the nurses,” she enthused.

“It is difficult not being able to visit the hospital and this was the next best thing to being there.”

Ann Conroy, Clinical Nurse Manager, said that the system was designed to be easy for nursing staff to use, which came of the engineers listening to them and “addressing the needs we identified”.

“The simplicity of the unit is what makes this such a success for the nurses who are busy caring for the patient and for the families who are at home.

“Also the quality of the video image is excellent which means it is as close as a family member will get to being in the ICU.”

Keith Griffin, Site Leader, Cisco Galway said that frontline staff are the real heroes, and that they are just glad to play a small part.

“Deploying a solution like this across multiple organisations would typically take months.”

“However, through collaboration and commitment, we were able to do this far faster, to help patients and their loved ones stay connected during these exceptional times.”

“I’m grateful to all the skilled volunteers who made this happen,” Keith said.

Briain Kelly
Email: news@galwaydaily.com
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