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Communication App Helps Patients Voice Their Needs

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Sep 2016
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Image: The “Speak for Myself” tablet-based communication application (Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University).
Image: The “Speak for Myself” tablet-based communication application (Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University).
An innovative tablet-based application offers intubated and ventilated intensive care unit (ICU) patients a way to converse with their medical staff.

The “Speak for Myself” app enables a patient to communicate to the ICU or critical care staff pain levels, feelings of fear and loneliness, and physical needs, such as suctioning, repositioning needs, and requests for toileting. When a patient touches the screen to indicate the location of pain on a body graphic, a voice says ‘it hurts here’ and indicates pain levels experienced. Patients can also type single words, phrases, or full sentences to communicate their needs. The software is also predictive so that if a patient begins to enter a word, the program will anticipate and present likely solutions.

A pilot study of the app, conducted at Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, USA), demonstrated the importance of communication, as well as the disconnect between what health care providers think patients want to say and what they actually want to communicate. In one example, a patient who reported unresolved pain in the back of his throat had a twisted nasogastric tube that was causing distress. The study was published in the August 2016 issue of Computers, Informatics, Nursing.

“While writing boards and other traditional methods may be helpful, important information is often lost. Furthermore, allowing others to speak for the patient has its limitations,” said study co-author Professor Ruth Tappen, EdD, RN. “It is accurate to assert that with enhanced communication, patients will have less frustration, their pain will be better controlled, and they will have a greater opportunity to participate in their own care.”

There are almost 800,000 patients in the United States alone who are intubated and require mechanical ventilation annually. More than half of these patients are awake, alert, and desperately attempting to communicate with ward nurses and physicians, and with their loved ones. Current methods to assist these patients with their communication needs are either antiquated, time consuming, or cumbersome.

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Florida Atlantic University

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