Keeping patients in touch with their loved ones using Visionable Connect

When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, NHS hospitals went into lockdown and closed their wards to family and friends. The Trust wanted to keep them in touch. It found Visionable Connect, a video calling solution designed to overcome the administration and information governance issues that can arise with consumer apps. The solution has been used throughout the pandemic and will almost certainly be retained when it is over.

The challenge:

The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, arrived in the UK in spring 2020. The NHS declared a state of emergency, hospitals locked down, and patient visits from friends and family stopped. While the lockdown was essential, it was recognised that this would have a significant impact on patients and their loved ones.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust wanted to keep people in touch. Initially, it tried to set up virtual visiting using consumer video calling and messaging apps. However, this proved difficult to administer, failed to secure the support of busy ward staff, and raised information governance issues.

The solution:

So, Nasreen Sheik-Panchoo, the Trust’s Complaints Manager, looked for an alternative. She ran an internet search and found Visionable Connect, which is a virtual visiting solution developed for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Visionable Connect can be loaded onto any mobile device and launched with a single click. There is no need for ward staff, patients, their family or friends to download an app or register for an account. Visionable Connect can also be used on devices that are shared by patients. They don’t need to enter personally identifiable data into the solution, and once the call link is closed no data is left on the device.

Epsom and St Helier obtained 65 tablets for its virtual visiting scheme, thanks to donations from individuals and charities. It worked with Visionable to register them on the Trust wi-fi network and set up a single email for the solution to use. Flyers and other materials have been created to tell ward staff about the scheme, and staff or patients simply book a time for a call.

Nasreen Sheik-Panchoo said: “For me, the big things about Visionable Connect were how simple it is to use and how we don’t have to worry about information governance. We could have gone down the route that other trusts went down, but I do not think it would have been so successful.”

The impact:

Virtual visiting using Visionable Connect was implemented in summer 2020. Use really picked up in the autumn, with the second wave of Covid-19. The Trust’s Volunteer Manager, Lynne Witham, says support from family and friends has been vital for severely unwell patients.

Lynne Witham said: “We have another scheme called Letters to Loved Ones. I had been going onto the wards to read letters for one of our patients for a week and it wasn’t really helping. Then I organised a call with his daughters and by the end of the week he was much brighter. He was eating and ready to go home.

“We had another patient who came back onto the wards after a month in intensive care. We organised virtual visits with her sisters, and by the end of the week, she was chatting to them all the time. She told me it was as if her memory had fractured in ITU and the calls helped her to put it back together. So, this is a lovely thing to be involved with.”

Because the virtual visits have had such an impact, it is likely that they will continue when the pandemic is over. This will help patients who have friends and family who cannot visit for any reason. It should also help ward staff by reducing the amount of time they spend taking phone calls and updating loved ones on how patients are doing.

Nasreen Sheik-Panchoo said: “This has been one of the big successes of the past year and a real positive at a very difficult time. It was a brilliant find.”