Why Tele-Empathy Is Critical Now
Intensivist, ICU Medical Director & Integrative Family Doctor with a passion for Human Centered Innovation, Sustainable Global Health and MyoFascial Medicine
Health care in the 21st century was already critically ill — fragmented, focused on pathology and systems rather than the patient or wellness, and a dinosaur in terms of digital innovation. When COVID-19 arrived, these failings moved front and centre with devastating consequences for us all.
For hospital patients, people in long-term care or senior living, and anyone relying on caregivers or personal support workers for day-to-day necessities, isolation and loss of support has hugely impacted their well-being and quality of life.
For the rest of us, the strains of reduced social interaction, remote work, worsening sedentarism, financial insecurity and more, have dramatically increased our stress and anxiety levels. Our resilience and emotional reserves are running on empty, and our capacity to support and care for others has been worn down.
As a critical care physician and a family doctor, I saw firsthand how visitor restrictions and lockdowns impacted my patients and their families during the first wave of the pandemic. They lost access to their loved ones and support network just when they needed them the most.
It was critical to find a straightforward and effective solution to address the isolation and disruption in the healing process of my patients in the Intensive Care Unit of our Montreal-based hospital, where I have the roles of Medical Director, Intensivist, and Pandemic Response/Ethical Care Coordinator. I developed a unique infrastructure and workflow that resulted in the first ever bi-modally optimized, Virtual ICU (VICU). The VICU uses a simple and secure platform via any device, allowing patients to meet virtually with care providers and their families who can no longer enter the hospital for key care conversations. Family meetings where all parties can see each other, connect, and gain trust, are a foundational component of the care we provide in ICUs, and across the care spectrum in general. The VICU platform has made physical, mental, and social healing possible for our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VICU rapidly scaled to become a Virtual Medical Center (VMC) both in the hospital and in the community. The unique empathy focus of the VICU and VMC emphasizes a human approach to digital care that improves quality of care and quality of life for patients and clinicians, while providing easy access to families and support networks, especially when in-person care or visitation is not possible.
This is Tele-Empathy in its most basic form — digitally connecting otherwise isolated people with family, friends, and healthcare professionals to improve mental and physical well-being, provide emotional support, and maintain continuity of care while eliminating conventional technological fragmentation in healthcare.
An article out recently in CMAJ stresses how important family and other caregivers are “in the delivery of patient-centred care, particularly for patient advocacy, feeding, mobility, orientation, emotional support in settings of delirium, cognitive impairment, language barriers, end-of-life care, labour and delivery, and transitions to critical care.”
It was the universal need to address isolation and reduce fragmentation in care that led to the creation of CONNECTIN as a simple and secure platform of health and wellness. CONNECTIN has developed customizable TeleEmpathy™ based solutions for intensive care units, general wards, multi-specialty clinics, senior living, palliative care and home care. Our TeleEmpathy™ solutions shift the focus from quantity to quality tech time by delivering optimized virtual care, and integrate curated, innovative tools to reduce sedentarism, increase physical activity, and optimize mental resilience not only for our patients but also for families, doctors and the entire care team.
-Dr.K and the CONNECTIN TeleEmpathy™ Care Team