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iPads bridging the gap of patients and families

As the times have changed, innovation has evolved.

Just a little over a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic has already made some big changes that may live on well after the age of social distancing. Due to the temporary exclusion of visitors, the clinic has started a program that allows patients to stay in touch with friends and family through virtual chats.

Dr. Chris Colby, the medical director of the Bedside Project at Mayo Clinic, said that the clinic had recently purchased 1,000 tablets with the idea of using them to keep patients updated on their medical notes, lab studies and x-ray images. Once the pandemic started separating patients from friends and family, the clinic decided to use those tablets to talk to patients from afar.

“Patients absolutely love it. They understand the need to tighten up our visitation policy and once they learn how to use it, it’s a great way to keep people updated on how they are doing,” Colby said. “The model for health care delivery has changed significantly over the last month. Some of these changes will benefit patients, friends and family for years and decades to come. This one will last beyond the COVID era.”

Lorri Hultgren, an RN in Mayo Health Clinic System in Austin, said patients can also use their own devices to keep in touch with friends and family.

“It’s for anybody that would like to communicate with their friends or family outside of here,” Hultgren said. “We have options here and we’re doing the best we can to keep everybody up to date. If a family wants regular calls, we make sure they’re updated. We do whatever we can, since they can’t be here.”

Colby said that Mayo has a history of letting visitors come in, but it quickly had to change its approach when COVID-19 broke out.

“We had to think differently. If we can’t have the doors wide open, how do we let visitors come in?” he said. “I’d like to thank the incredible work from all of the people behind the scenes who made this happen.”