Frontline connect: Evaluating a virtual technology program to enhance patient and provider communication during COVID‐19
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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals have reduced in-hospital visitation. In these situations, virtual communication tools have helped maintain interaction between parties. The Frontline Connect program was designed to address communication and patient care challenges by providing data-enabled devices to clinical staff in hospitals. This study aimed to identify areas of improvement for the Frontline Connect program by: (a) evaluating communication needs, user experience, and program satisfaction; and (b) identifying potential barriers to device access or use. We administered pre-implementation needs assessment, post-use, and exit surveys to healthcare staff at a pilot hospital site in Ontario. Recruitment was through email lists and site champions using convenience sampling. We descriptively analysed survey responses and compared the initial need statements to post-implementation use-cases identified by users. We received 139 needs assessments, 31 user experience assessments, and 47 exit survey responses. Most device use occurred in the emergency department and intensive care units and was facilitated by social workers, nurses, and physicians to connect patients, families, and care providers. Pre-implementation concerns were related to infection control, data security, and device privacy. In the exit survey, these were replaced by other concerns including Internet connectivity and time-intensiveness. Device utility and ease-of-use were rated 9.7/10 and 9.6/10 respectively in the user experience survey, though overall experience was rated 7.2/10 in the exit survey. Overall, respondents viewed the devices as useful and we agree with participants who suggested increased program promotion and training would likely improve adoption. We found that our virtual technology program for facilitating communication was positively perceived. Survey feedback indicates that a rapid rollout in response to urgent pandemic-related needs was feasible, though program logistics could be improved. The current work supports the need to improve, standardize, and sustain virtual communication programs in hospitals.
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