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Using the iPhone to Improve Patient Care in the ICU


There are non-traditional methods where smartphones can enable physicians to improve patient care at the bedside. These are subtle, but can be equally or more powerful.

iMedicalApps has traditionally expounded on how smartphones can help us with patient care in regards to providing physician-centric tools at bedside. These range from drug reference tools to various clinical algorithm medical apps.

But there are also non-traditional methods where smartphones enable us to improve patient care at the bedside. These are subtle, but can be equally or more powerful.

When I was working in the ICU recently, there were two “non-traditional” methods where I utilized my iPhone to improve the care of my patients.

Patient 1

I was taking care of an adolescent who was still on a ventilator and was having difficulty passing their SBT (spontaneous breathing trial). It was understandably a terrifying experience for the patient as they were still able to communicate and understand their overall disposition — the patient had plenty of family and nursing staff talking them through this. Heavily sedating the patient would only hurt their chances of passing the SBT, so we needed them to be as calm as possible without too much sedation.

The staff and family had given the patient a notepad so they could communicate, but the adolescent was getting agitated they could not verbalize themselves due to the breathing tube being in place. Unfortunately, the patient had pathology preventing them from adequately being able to write on a notepad — their words appeared as scribble.

When I came on for my overnight shift, I handed the patient my iPhone.

The words flowed with ease. We sometimes forget adolescents are more used to taping on a glass screen then writing on a notepad. Also, taping is much easier from a dexterity and muscle effort standpoint then writing on a pad when you’re laying down — especially when you’re connected to a breathing machine.

The following was the first question the patient posed to me, and it was the start of a longer conversation (I blurred out the date the conversation took place and took out other aspects of the conversation to protect patient privacy). The conversation ranged from their breathing tube to the foley they had had in place.

The adolescent wasn’t as agitated knowing they could communicate, and shortly they passed their SBT and their breathing tube came out.

Read about Patient 2.

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