Posted on Tuesday 14 April 2020
Dr Joel Meyer and Professor Louise Rose
Families whose loved ones are being treated in intensive care units for coronavirus (COVID-19) can now be present virtually at their bedside.
The Life Lines project, which has been launched at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital, supported by King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre and King’s College London, allows relatives to see and speak to their loved ones via a tablet using the secure online platform, aTouchAway.
It provides families with the opportunity to meet the clinical team providing care, ask questions, and better understand the environment where they are being treated. It can be very distressing for families and friends not to be able to see their loved one at the end of their lives, and Life Lines can keep them connected so they can say their final goodbyes.
The Life Lines project aims to provide two tablets to every intensive care unit (ICU) across the UK. The number of tablets per ICU will increase in the coming weeks supported by a fundraising campaign that has launched today.
Life Lines was set up by a team comprising Professor Louise Rose, a Professor of Critical Care Nursing at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, King's College London, Dr Joel Meyer, a critical care consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’, and Michel Paquet, CEO of Aetonix who created aTouchAway.
The project has been developed by a unique partnership of clinicians, academics, companies and charities who have shared expertise and resources to help patients and families stay connected. Initial seed funding of £1 million has been provided by the True Colours Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
BT has collaborated with its tech partners Google, Samsung and MobileIron to provide Life Lines with a large number of 4G-enabled tablets secured by Android Enterprise, which come loaded with aTouchAway. To enable the connectivity to support Life Lines, BT can also provide ICUs with a 4G Wi-Fi hub which can be installed by clinicians themselves.
Dr Meyer, from Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “To reduce the risk of infection, hospitals are currently restricting visitors which means many patients don’t have any contact with their relatives once they are admitted to intensive care. Not being able to connect with loved ones is such a cruel element of this pandemic.
“Although ICU patients are usually sedated, hearing a loved one’s voice can be extremely comforting. This secure platform enables family members to virtually be by their bedside, which is particularly important when patients are approaching the end of their lives.”
Professor Rose, from King’s College London, said: “Life Lines has quickly come together thanks to the enormous generosity of philanthropic funders and industry partners. Together, we’re able to help keep families connected when they cannot be near, which may help to dramatically reduce family and patient distress and could revolutionise the way we communicate with families in the future.
“Life Lines can also help to alleviate stress for the intensive care nurses who play a huge role in communicating with families, and who are doing everything they can to make sure no one feels alone.”
Gerry McQuade, CEO, Enterprise, BT, said: “We’re pulling out all the stops to ensure the rapid deployment of the communications technology needed to help NHS trusts and hospitals to respond to the current crisis. Technology can make a huge difference in enhancing the quality of care for patients and the voice and video calling solution for those in adult intensive care units is a great example of this.
“By collaborating with our technology partners and initially working closely with Guy’s and St Thomas’, we turned the delivery of the solution around in just three working days so that patients and staff can start using the technology as quickly as possible. We’re fully geared up to help other parts of the NHS introduce new technologies like this to manage the unprecedented impact of coronavirus.”
To support Life Lines and help ensure even more tablets can be delivered to intensive care units across the UK, visit kingshealthpartners.org/lifelines/donate.
For more information about Life Lines, visit kingshealthpartners.org/lifelines.