Intensive Care Unit patient and family videoconferencing model

Connecting patients and their loved ones during an ICU stay

Northern Sydney Local Health District

Published 13 May 2021. Last updated 11 November 2022.

The patient and family videoconferencing model in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) is a simple and innovative solution implemented to connect patients and their loved ones during an ICU stay. The service uses existing technology at the patient’s bedside and an approved NSW Health videoconferencing platform to facilitate family meetings and maintain family connections.

RNSH is the major hospital for Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD) with many specialty services provided. The 58-bed ICU is split across four pods, providing specialist cardiothoracic, neurosurgical and general intensive care. Due to the specialist clinical services available at RNSH (including being a statewide referral centre for burn and spinal injuries), patients may have travelled or been transported in an emergency, resulting in them being geographically isolated from their family, carers and loved ones during their admission.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital visitor restrictions were necessary to control the spread of the virus. Border closures and lockdowns also meant that travel to and within NSW was limited. This impacted how and when in-person visits from family to their loved ones in ICU could occur and made holding family meetings challenging.

The ICU team developed an innovative solution to address the restrictions by introducing videoconferencing to the bedside. Bedside videoconferencing uses Pexip (a NSW Health endorsed videoconferencing platform) to address the need for both family/carer visits and family meetings. This service is offered in addition to the existing means of communication that patients may have.

Family meetings are held between clinicians and families for patients with complex needs and to support end of life decisions when needed. Family meetings are attended by ICU doctors and nurses, specialty teams, social workers and the patient's family. Due to visitor restrictions, in-person family meetings were significantly limited during COVID. To address this, the ICU introduced a videoconferencing option alongside phone calls which were offered previously.

Whilst visitor restrictions have eased, bedside videoconferencing has demonstrated benefits beyond the pandemic. All bed spaces in the ICU remain enabled for videoconferencing, which can be utilised by families who do not live in Sydney or are unable to travel. Going forward, the ICU team is committed to using this model to help patients stay connected with their loved ones.

Download Virtual Care: RNSH ICU Patient and Family Videoconferencing Model - PDF


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