Technology helping patients

By Mary Dennehy

VIDEO glasses, virtual clinics and a robot called Lucy are among some of the ways the team at Tallaght University Hospital are using technology to help clinicians and patients during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In recent weeks Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) has introduced numerous digital solutions to assist patient care, and to also enable patients and their families to keep in touch during the current crisis.

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(Image: Tallaght University Hospital)

New technology has been combined with existing technology to also support hospital staff in communicating with each other effectively as they try to reduce footfall into restricted areas.

According to David Wall, Director of ICT at TUH: “Last December the hospital launched a five year strategy with a heavy emphasis on Digital Enabled Care, we did not realise that we would be introducing so many elements of that care within a few weeks.

“With the support of an incredible team of ICT, medical, nursing and Health and Social Care Professional staff the hospital has been able to introduce a number of new innovations in the hospital very quickly.

“The use of this technology is proving to be critical in supporting our response to patients’ needs during this challenging time.” 

He added: “Combined with technology already in use in the hospital, over the last number of weeks we have been enabling safe and efficient communication between colleagues as well as patients and their families.

“Advances in ICT at TUH have facilitated a number of ‘firsts’ for the hospital including an online interactive lecture series using Zoom, medical teams being able to consult with colleagues using wearable cameras, remote monitoring and virtual visiting.”

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ICT Team

According to TUH, donations from companies, volunteer groups, such as, and gift cards from Amazon have helped the hospital enhance the technology being used.

An example of the innovation being applied is the use of Amazon’s Echo Show devices in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and theatre.

Echo Show devices enable two-way video calling so clinicians can consult with team members on video, rather than in person – reducing the level of foot traffic into a restricted area.

The hospital is also trialling voice activated, hands free devices that will enable communication between patients and their families over Skype.

Ipads have also been placed on all wards to help patients keep in contact with family and friends at a time when visiting is restricted.

According to the hospital, the iPads are housed in cleanable, healthcare compliant cases and have been set up with Skype, Facetime and Google Hangout.

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“Maintaining a human connection with friends and family is vitally important for our patients and their loved ones. In the absence of face to face visiting, virtual connection has become so important”, Aine Lynch, TUH Director of Nursing said.

“The nursing staff are helping patients use the technology so they can see as much of their families and friends as possible during this time.”

Technology is also being used to assist staff and medical team to effectively communicate.

One example is the use of video glasses, which have been donated to the hospital for six months by Irish-based technology company, Redzinc.

These wearable, point of view, wireless headsets enable medical teams to interact with each other in real time in order to diagnose and treat patients.

Dr Peter Lavin, Consultant Nephrologist and Clinical Director of the Medical Directorate of TUH said: “The Redzinc glasses have been extremely useful and enable us to step into a clinical situation as if we were there.

“We are using them in theatre, the ED and ICU and they are helping us to reduce footfall into critical areas with vulnerable patients.”

Ipad used for online visiting compressor

Other innovations include the development of an app to ensure staff are kept up-to-date with hospital news and the Pastoral Care team has launched a video service which, accessible through mobile phone or email, enables chaplains to virtually visit patients.

Hospital Robot Doctor Lucy is also continuing to provide invaluable help during ward rounds, supporting both staff and patients.

Technology is also being used by the hospital to support the continuation of its care to the community.

Age-Related Healthcare at TUH is collaborating with the All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care to deliver an interactive virtual lecture series for nursing home staff to update them on changing guidelines and provide clinical education to enhance care.

Four lectures have been delivered to date, with an average of between 300 and 600 participants.

The hospital is also supporting the care of more than 1,000 residents in 14 local nursing homes, and is using technology to facilitate communication and clinical review.

“Unfortunately nursing homes have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, with many residents becoming unwell”, Prof Sean Kennelly, Consultant Geriatrician at TUH said.

“We have developed a telehealth outreach service for general practitioners and directors of nursing to our local residential care facilities, including video-consultations to support care in place.

“The multidisciplinary team has managed over 400 contacts in the last six-weeks, and this link to a specialist service has been essential in supporting these care facilities during a very challenging time.”

Tallaght University Hospital has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the use of technology to deliver patient-centred care.

Their current use of technology to adapt to emerging needs while continuing to deliver quality care will no doubt have positive implications for the healthcare service into the future. 

 For hospital updates, information and advice visit TUH or follow Tallaght University Hospital on Facebook.

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