Hackensack – Caring for Patients in Isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC), the 781-bed flagship facility in New Jersey’s Hackensack Meridian health system, serves the metro New York area and was in the epicenter of thefight against COVID-19 this spring. Elective surgeries were cancelled in March as HUMC transitioned to serve mainly COVID patients. Since the pandemic hit the area, HUMC has discharged well over one thousand COVID-19 patients.

While HUMC has cared for their share of critical patients on ventilators, the reality is that there is a wide-range of severity across COVID-19 positive patients. The majority of patients, who can be in the hospital upwards of two weeks, are conscious and lucid. They are also scared, lonely and unable to receive the comfort of friends in family in person due to strict isolation protocols which forbid outside visitors.

As can be expected, patients in isolation were having a difficult time. The HUMC Patient Experience team was exploring different ways to help ease the burden for these patients and their families while also trying to keep everyone – staff and patients – safe. The team was kicking around different ideas for somehow receiving cards and messages from family and friends and getting them into the patient’s rooms. The challenge was trying to do this in a manner that was both safe and efficient.

Enter pCare Photo Share

HUMC has been using pCare’s Interactive Patient System for enhancing patient engagement and experience throughout the facility. Since go live, HUMC has steadily rolled out features to enhance the patient experience including stress management programming, service requests, and infection control/handwashing support. During a scheduled meeting to discuss the addition of music therapy videos, the pCare Patient Experience Coach shared with the HUMC team a soon to be released feature – photo share.

“This was a godsend,” beamed Mary McGeever, Communications Manager at HUMC who was sitting in on the meeting. “This was just the type of solution we were looking for patients who couldn’t see their families and were devastated.” With pCare Photo Share, patient’s send a text message invitation to friends and families with a link to upload photos directly to the patient’s pCare account. Once uploaded, the patient receives an alert on his television from which he can view the photos that have been shared.

Implementing photo share was easy. “Once we decided to move forward, it was a matter of setting up a test room in our facility. After we validated that invitations could be sent and photos successfully uploaded, we pushed the button and the photo share was immediately available in all 781 rooms.” explained Rebecca Kaiser, Director of Patient Experience.

The response has been phenomenal. People have been creative in leveraging the app – sending photos, cards and special messages to the isolated patients. “Patients really like viewing the images on the big screen” Ms. McGeever shared.. “It’s a better experience than what is delivered on the phone, and patients like to leave the pictures on the screen. It brings a sense of home and comfort to the hospital room.” Since launch, hundreds of photos have been shared with patients.

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