HONOLULU — A program providing donated iPads and computer tablets has allowed patients at an Oahu hospital stay in contact with loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak.
Family and friends who cannot visit patients at Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu can receive medical updates and make contact through videoconferencing applications on the devices.
Patients who have benefited since April include Oahu residents of all ages hospitalized for conditions other than COVID-19 but cut off from visitors because of restrictions resulting from the virus.
Dr. Ali Chisti launched the initiative by asking friends and hospital staff to donate used devices. A medical school friend in Portland, Oregon, bought 10 Amazon Fire tablets and shipped them to Oahu.
Chisti also followed prospective leads on devices from strangers.
“I drove around at the end of my shift to three spots in Kaimuki to meet friends of friends,” Chisti said.
Chisti assures donors that the hospital’s technology staff will wipe their data and create secure ways for patients and their families and friends to use the technology.
“I’ve never seen patients so alone,” Chisti said, noting the virtual meetings are not the same as in-person visits, but the benefits far outweigh any negative effects.
One patient cried when he saw his family, said Veronica Yosting, an intensive care nurse.
“Patients do better with family with them,” Yosting said, and the devices “keep everyone safe but still bridge that gap and help families and patients cope.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.