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Call for better virtual communication for isolated patients at the end of life

Call for better virtual communication for isolated patients at the end of life

A summary of a perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to new and challenging situations in all areas of life. This article discusses the painful reality of not being able to say goodbye to a loved one who is dying in hospital with COVID-19. It also looks into possible solutions to this problem.

The problems with visiting

Normally, when patients are very ill in hospital, healthcare professionals work hard to give family members the time and space to say goodbye. Because of COVID-19, many countries have put social distancing measures in place. This means hospitals around the world are not letting family members visit their dying relatives.

Allowing a visit could cause many issues. The visiting family members might be carrying COVID-19 and could infect people in the hospital. There are a shortage of masks and gloves which need to be saved for doctors and nurses, rather than using them for visitors. And the visitors could catch COVID-19 from the patients in the hospital

The article, which was written by healthcare professionals working in the USA, describes examples of nurses using their own phones for video calls to try and allow a final goodbye. Due to time, WIFI problems and hygiene policies, this is not usually a realistic solution.

Call for improved digital communication

The authors of the article believe there must be better solutions available in this digital world, where video calls are becoming the new normal. They call for national guidelines to be written that provide advice to hospitals on how this could be managed. They suggest using tablets or workstations logged into video chats to allow family members their final goodbye.

The authors admit that this is not ideal, but it could be a way of giving families the opportunity to connect while keeping everyone safe.

Read the original research paper

Title: Not Dying Alone — Modern Compassionate Care in the COVID-19 Pandemic

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2007781?query=RP

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Find advice about hospital stays with COVID-19 in our factsheets

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