Coronavirus pandemic: Fundraiser launched to buy iPads for UCSF patients wanting to talk to family, friends

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As with hospitals across the United States, family members and friends aren't allowed to see patients at UCSF since new San Francisco City and County visitation restrictions went into effect in mid-March. The order is an attempt to reduce the spread the novel coronavirus.

"It is incredibly difficult for family who can't be with their loved ones at their bedside," says Michelle Mourad, MD, Vice-Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF.

One way to help lonely patients has been through video chats on iPads.

"I wish I could say that interactions on an iPad are just like being in the room. But nothing substitutes that personal connection. Even when you can't touch or hug your loved one. Your presence is irreplaceable," she explains. But she says iPads are the "next best thing."

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Doctor Mourad says she has witness first-hand a change in patients who are able to connect with their family on an iPad.

"We had one particular gentleman who was having trouble with delirium," Dr. Mourad shared. "Being able to see his family every day, hear their voices that he recognized, see the faces he recognized, was incredibly impactful to his care. And I am pretty confident (using an iPad) lead for him to be able to get his normal mental functioning back, and leave the hospital. It was really tremendous."

Dr. Mourad says using iPads to communicate with patients isn't new, however, it has never been implemented on such a large scale.

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She says 100 iPads have been donated, each bed in their Respiratory Isolation Unit now has an iPad, and each floor has five to eight iPad for patients to use.

Some UCSF medical residents and students have launched a GoFundMe to raise more to buy more.

"We are thinking about expanding this hospital-wide. And thinking about what is the role of iPads for family members, who can't make it to the bedside, after this epidemic is over," says Mourad.

The COVID 19 visitation restrictions are in place until April 30, but are subject to change.

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