Paralyzed Patients Use Technology to Engage with their Care Team and Families

March 24, 2016 in Custom Solutions, Patient Engagement Table, Patient Experience

Not long ago, GCX unveiled a new Patient Engagement Table, a hospital-grade over-bed table with an adjustable arm that places a tablet or other electronic device in easy-to-use positions for hospitalized patients. It was designed to improve the individual patient experience, as well as relieve some of the workload for busy nurses.

The response to initial use of the Patient Engagement Table has been overwhelmingly positive. But what we didn’t foresee was its dramatic application for patients with spinal cord injuries and others with severely limited mobility issues.

Think about the challenges such patients face in the hospital setting. They feel “locked in,” forced to accept help for virtually everything a mobile person doesn’t think twice about doing—eating, washing, taking care of bodily functions, etc. Since they’re unable to move, they have no control over their environment.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that such feelings of helplessness and despair don’t contribute to a favorable recovery.

Until now.

Recently, a team at VCU Medical Center in Richmond Va., was inspired by our Patient Engagement Table to create a unique cart for its tetraplegia patients in the intensive care unit. The cart is mobile and specially equipped with a GCX mount that can hold a laptop directly overhead of an immobile patient. Infrared eye-gazing technology is used as a cursor to open web pages, launch apps and stay connected via social media. As a patient gazes either to the right or left, the technology scans their eye movements, enabling them to use a keyboard just as others do with a mouse in hand.

“The eye gaze technology was there previously, but until now we lacked the means to deliver it,” notes Jerry A. Langford, the Senior Systems Administrator and OR Information Systems Infrastructure Team Lead for VCU Health’s PeriSurgical Services. “That’s all changed with the use of GCX’s Patient Engagement System. This has been, by far, the most rewarding job I’ve done at the hospital.”

Our GCX team, led by Kent Hochgertle, Director of New Business Development, was as moved as the VCU staff, when severe spinal injury patients began to use the new technology. “This particular project was the most special one I’ve ever worked on,” Hochgertle said. “It was exciting to see it all come together by taking an old standard – the over-bed table – and making it more high tech. Now patients can have an iPad or other technology right where they want it without long arms or cords going across the floor. This reduces clutter and removes trip hazards from caregiver and family member’s walkways while bringing technology right there in front of the patient.”

Now, immobile patients can engage in an array of computer-guided health and leisure activities—everything from researching their medical conditions to streaming videos on Netflix, downloading books from Amazon, making calls on Skype, and more.

We’re exploring the use of universal design in future iterations of this technology. Someday soon, we hope, tetreplegics can independently switch lights on and off in their hospital room, open and close doors, and turn a thermostat up and down. We’re also exploring how best to adapt the new technology for use by a patient in their home setting.

It is the enterprising ideas like the one from the team at VCU Medical Center that inspire us to continually create medical-grade solutions to improve the patient experience in healthcare facilities worldwide.