Speaking to loved ones is the best medicine

Near Me technology helps bring patients and loved ones closer.

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Video-conferencing technology  used at Lorn and Islands Hospital for online consultations has now been repurposed to keep ward patients in touch with their families during COVID-19.

Visits to wards have been restricted since the crisis so hospital staff have had to innovate to make sure patients and families stay connected.

Using the Near Me video-conferencing system has meant patients are able to communicate with their dear ones via tablets, laptops and home computers.

NHS Highland has been using Near Me for two years  to get specialist health services to patients in remote and rural areas but now its use has been extended  to bring families and friends together in these unprecedented times.

If patients are admitted with their own phones or tablets to stay in touch, that is an option but for those who do not have their own devices or who do not regularly use this kind of technology, Near Me is now filling the gap to ensure everyone can be in touch, says hospital consultant Dr Colin Millar. ‘The visual element adds a lot to contact,’ he added.

Patients have been using the technology to keep connected in lots of different ways, including joining in online church worship.

Staff nurse Isla Danson said: ‘It really is the best medicine for them to speak to those they love, particularly during COVID. Because all ward staff, even on non-COVID wards must wear PPE, it can be a long day for patients. Even seeing a face can make a difference.

‘And we can set the tablets on their tables so the patient doesn’t even need to do anything. We can try to be there for patients, but we’re not their family or loved ones. ’

Repurposing the technology is an example of creativity and
problem-solving at the hospital in Oban to ensure patients get the care they should, says Britt Doughty-Godchaux, who interviewed hospital staff for The Oban Times.

The hospital also  provides tablets with waterproof covers that can be easily cleaned after each use, making them safe.

With the prospect of social distancing continuing, for medical use the Near Me technology is still a health care asset says Dr Millar.

‘However, it is about striking the balance. Virtual consultations will not always be suitable. In-person appointments will remain a necessity in certain circumstances,’ he added.

To find out more about Near Me go to:
https://www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/NHSNEARME/Pages/Welcome.aspx