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Bedside App Engages Patients, Families and Care Team in the ICU

Glance around the surgical intensive care unit (ICU) and you might see people interacting with a new app. Developed at Johns Hopkins, the app aims to make patients and their families feel more comfortable during an ICU stay.

The app includes an interactive display detailing the equipment in an ICU room, a profile where people can upload a picture and share personal information so the care team can get to know a patient better, a goals section to identify what patients would like to accomplish during their visit, and a menu of activities for family members to do to help provide care for their loved one.

Accessible through iPads in the surgical ICU rooms, the information entered by patients and families is automatically shared with health care providers. 

“This is the first time we have given a vehicle to patients and families to feel integrated as part of the health care team,” says Rhonda Wyskiel, innovation coordinator for the Armstrong Institute and former ICU nurse. “There is no other technical intervention like this that truly engages families and caregivers at the bedside.”

The app, called the Patient and Family Portal, includes the Family Involvement Menu, an idea that Wyskiel had when her mother was sick in an ICU. “I felt helpless and frustrated when I wasn’t allowed to help her,” she says. “I went back to work and realized I was forcing the same kind of rules and regulations on my patients.”

Instead of setting rules, Wyskiel started involving family members. She soon created a list of things with which family members could help, such as brushing a patient’s hair, helping them to eat or repositioning a patient in bed. She laminated the menu and hung it on the walls of patient rooms.

“People started using it,” she says, “and family members had the opportunity to provide care for their loved ones in the hospital.”

Years later, the menu is a key aspect of the app, a project funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to eliminate harms and involve family in ICU care.

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