In his residency at Foothills Hospital, Dr. Kimberley Nix has seen how face-to-face interactions with patients and their families can benefit their overall health.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the limited number of visitors who have followed the global health crisis, Nix has also understood the importance of face-to-face communication between doctors and their patients’ families.

That inspired Nix, part of the internal medicine resident charity committee, along with Dr. Alexander Frolkis and other emergency doctors and resident doctors, to raise funds to buy a tablet computer and iPad for inpatient units in hospitals.

Their group aims to raise $ 4,000 to buy a critical communication tool by

sell $ 2 tickets through Eventbrite

, with funds processed through the Calgary Health Trust. The draw was May 31 at Foothills Hospital, with a pair of $ 500 cash prizes up for grabs.

Hospital access restrictions in Alberta are enforced because COVID-19 visits are limited initially and then reduced to zero – with the exception of palliative cases – making face-to-face communication with patients and their loved ones possible only through technology.

“We have to make a difficult decision,” Nix said. “For example, who of two siblings and a wife or a husband of a loved one can be with them when they pass by. Difficult decisions like who will be with them at the ICU.

“At one point, no one was even allowed to be in the ICU with them, critically ill patients.”

Nix said patient care was improved for a number of reasons when family and loved ones were present.

“This is not only a spiritual component, an emotional component, a lonely component – all of which is rampant now in this hospital – but also patient care in terms of medical knowledge.”

He said families and loved ones can provide valuable insights to doctors about patients who go beyond their graphic information, about treatment history and the general baseline of the health of their loved ones.

“It’s a big loss to not have these family members and their friends and colleagues and those closest to us here at the hospital for us,” Nix said.

While video chat is not the perfect solution for doctor-family interaction, he said, it is possible to ask questions, communication about treatment, instructions for treatment when returning home and, simply, see their loved ones at the hospital.

He said he had made a policy on the medical teaching unit to connect with family through video chat before the patient was discharged.

“That proved to be a more effective strategy than not having a family present,” Nix said. “That’s where the fundraising came from.”

Calgary hospitals already have a few tablets, but there are limited numbers and Nix says they have experienced problems with theft during the COVID-19 outbreak. The money raised will also be used to install a security system on the new tablet and iPad.

Any remaining funds will be directed to the Calgary Trust Fund, Alberta Health Services, COVID-19 Improving Patient Care and the Clean Hands Helping Hearts initiative.

He hopes to extend fundraising beyond May 31 to continue raising money.

“Nurses, doctors and all health care providers will be able to use it to interact with patients and families, and to make patients interact directly with their families while they are here as inpatients,” Nix said. “This is for all patients here because everyone is affected by the new policy.”

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