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iPads help patients across the system connect with loved ones

A project that began as a means to help COVID-19 patients connect with loved ones when they couldn’t have visitors has turned into an initiative to deploy more than 300 iPads across the Monument Health system. The primary purpose is to allow patients who don’t have other means to communicate with family and friends who can’t be there in person, but the devices also can be used for virtual rounding and patient education.

The importance of helping families communicate, especially in the most dire of circumstances, was reinforced last Friday. The parents of a COVID-19 patient visited Rapid City Hospital to thank caregivers and providers who cared for their son and who facilitated the use of an iPad before he passed away. The parents contacted Marcia Taylor, Clinical Experience Coach, and asked if they could thank their son’s caregivers in person.

Rosemarie and Michael Massey (front row), who lost their son to COVID-19, visited Rapid City Hospital on Aug. 7 to thank those who cared for their son and helped the family communicate via iPad. “I can tell that this is not just a job for you,” a tearful Rosemarie said to the caregivers.


“Many people from different departments worked very quickly to make the use of this technology a reality for patients and families who need it,” Marcia said, adding that J.R. Simpson, Director of IT Partner Services, and Adrian Padilla, Manager of Device Support Services, have been the catalyst for the project. The devices can make both iOS and Android video calls.

All Monument Health hospitals have some iPads available now, but the goal is for one to be installed in each adult inpatient room across the system by Aug. 21. The Monument Health Foundation, through Development Officer Michele Loobey-Gertsch, acquired funding from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation ($25,000) and the South Dakota Community Foundation ($20,000) to purchase iPads and wall mounts so they can be secure and compliant in patient rooms.

“When we consider the Foundation’s purpose and how our funds are distributed, efforts that will help caregivers at the bedside and that will help improve the experience for patients are what we focus on,” said Angie Kliewer, Foundation Director. “So we were happy to help with this project.”

The initial request to the Foundation came after Lowe’s in Rapid City donated five of the devices to Monument Health to support patients in the community. Emily Vlietstra, Director of Patient Access, facilitated that donation and then contacted the Foundation to see about getting more.

Janel Salazar, Nurse Clinician in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), has seen firsthand the value of having these devices on-hand for patients and families. She explained that ICU patients sometimes can’t communicate well or at all, so this allows the family to at least see the patient. It also provides an opportunity for the family to participate in the care of their loved one when they can’t be there in person.

“Seeing your family member over video is more personal than a phone call,” Janel said. “It’s been vital in helping the family provide support and helping the patient not feel so isolated.”

Some iPads were purchased and are being used to deliver educational videos to patients to support their health and well-being. Eventually, the donated iPads may be used for patient education purposes as well. Sarah Blenner, Manager of Patient & Family Education, said there are many possibilities to use the iPad for showing a patient’s schedule, discharge instructions, meal offerings, and more.

Marcia said while they’re not being used in this capacity right now, physicians can use the iPads for virtual rounding in the event that hospitals are trying to limit the use of personal protective equipment. Virtual rounds can be considered when it’s not absolutely necessary for the provider to be in the room with the patient.

Thanks to this multidisciplinary team for doing what it takes to best support our patients and families.

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