Doctors at the Royal United Hospital in Bath have begun using new technology to trial virtual ward rounds, helping to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Patients will continue to receive the same level of care and support, but doctors can speak to patients while they are in their hospital bed by using one of a number of iPads that have been donated to the hospital from the Dyson Foundation, via the hospital’s charity, the Forever Friends Appeal.
While a small clinical team needs to be on the wards in person during ward rounds, the new ways of working have proven successful in reducing disruption as well as the number of people on the ward at any one time.
Caroline, a patient being treated for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) on William Budd ward, said: “It was especially nice to see the doctors’ faces without face masks.
“I thought that there might be quality issues but actually the sound and picture quality on the iPads was better than I expected and there were no delays in speaking.
“I think the virtual ward rounds probably save the doctors some time, but at no point in any of my consultations have I felt rushed.
“I still liked having someone in the room with me in person though.
“Definitely the biggest plus is that you can see the consultant’s whole face like the good old days – it makes a real difference.”
RUH Medical Director Bernie Marden said: “Virtual ward rounds have proved extremely successful with both patients and our staff.
“Our doctors and consultants can speak to patients without being on the ward and so can safely remove their masks, and patients have told us how they have appreciated being able to see their consultant’s face, which they wouldn’t normally be able to do if we were in full PPE by their bedside.
“Other clinical staff are able to join the rounds virtually too, so there’s only a small team of staff needed on the ward to physically conduct the ward round and operate the iPads, which are regularly cleaned and sanitised.
“Despite their being less people on the wards, our patients still get the same excellent level of care provided by our clinical teams, just more of it takes place virtually.
“Minimising footfall on our wards, is another way of reducing the risk of spreading infection, along with our other infection prevention and control measures.
“We have also been able to improve the service we provide to our patients, as the patient can now see their test results and x-rays on the screen and have it explained to them by the consultant, something which is easier to do than before.
“At the RUH we are committed to quality improvement and innovation and are always looking at ways we can become more digital, when it will benefit our patients.
“This is not to say we’ll be losing that vital, human contact, which we know is so valued by our patients.
“We’re extremely grateful to Dyson for their donation, which has also meant we can use the iPads to help keep patients in touch with their families while visiting is suspended at the hospital.”