Ms Candice Poupard1, Ms Stella Nelson1, Mr Chris Weiers1
1Western Health, Footscray, Australia
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, strict visitor restrictions have been in place across Melbourne hospitals. The limited access to family and friends impacted negatively on patient mood, engagement in therapy and the ability to communicate with loved ones outside the hospital.
The Virtual Visiting program was an Allied Health led innovation to assist patients and their families to participate in “Virtual Visits”. Virtual Visits are defined as social interactions conducted via videoconference or telephone.
An initial audit of hospital inpatients found that 70% of patients need some form of assistance to connect virtually with their family. Allied Health were well placed to deliver this service due to being located in all units of the hospital, experts in communication and often involved in translation of medical information between families and carers.
An Allied Health Virtual Visiting Lead was allocated to 25 wards across Western Health’s three primary hospital sites. The lead acted as a ward expert in facilitating Virtual Visits and were responsible for identifying appropriate patients for Virtual Visits, liaising with families and conducting the calls.
Utilisation data was collected via Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Activity Bar Coding (ABC) scanning. Both consumer and staff feedback was collected to measure impact and to evaluate the program respectively.
This presentation aims to share the steps it takes to rapidly implement a Virtual Visiting program across a group of large tertiary hospitals during a pandemic. It will discuss the success of the program and the impact on staff, patients and their families.
Stella Nelson is a Grade 2 Occupational Therapist who has been working at Western Health, Melbourne for 4 years. Her clinical experience is predominantly on acute medical wards and she worked on the COVID-19 wards throughout the pandemic. Stella has a real passion for patient centred care and enjoyed developing strategies to continue to provide holistic care despite the challenges faced during the pandemic.