iPad Brings New Wave in Surgeon, Patient Communication

By Tony Rizzo — July 11, 2012

Through face-to-face video calls on iPads and other tablets, Henry Ford Hospital is initiating the next wave of high-tech communication at hospitals dubbed telerounding. The iPad fills a critical need for Henry Ford surgeons to communicate with their patients in the clinic or inpatient setting, even when they're not in the same city. 
 
A Henry Ford Hospital surgeon checks in on a patient the day after removing a tumor from his kidney, examining the surgical scar and seeing on the patient's face that he's still in a bit of pain. But this isn't your typical post-surgical hospital rounding. The surgeon and his patient are actually 25 miles apart in two different hospitals, each armed with an iPad equipped with the live video chat software FaceTime.
 
Through face-to-face video calls on iPads and other tablets, Henry Ford is initiating the next wave of high-tech communication at hospitals called "telerounding" (doing rounds, just not physically). In January 2009, Henry Ford became the first hospital to live-tweet surgery using Twitter, starting a trend still popular today at hospitals across the country.
 
“Using the iPad to communicate really appeals to the type of patients that are seeking state-of-the-art, minimally invasive robotic surgery at Henry Ford," says Craig Rogers, M.D., director of Renal Surgery and director of Urologic Oncology at Henry Ford. "Patients are looking for us to use current technology in a way that improves their care, and telerounding with the iPad really fits that need in enhancing the communication and care following surgery."
 
The iPad fills a critical need for Henry Ford surgeons like Dr. Rogers – who perform operations each week at both Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital – to communicate with their patients in the clinic or inpatient setting, even when they're not in the same city. Previously, as might be expected, the surgeon would call the patient on the phone if he wasn't on site.
 
By replacing a phone call with a video-chat on the iPad, patients are able to have a personal and confidential conversation with their surgeon. The surgeons also benefits by being able to actually see their patients to get a better sense of their post-surgical condition – at any time, from anywhere. 
 
"It's non-obtrusive and private, and I think it's a benefit especially in today's busy world when we have to be in multiple places," says Alan Wiechert of Clawson, Mich., who used the iPad from his bed at Henry Ford Hospital to communicate the day after his surgery with Dr. Rogers at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. "In today's world, we're so busy and it's a good feeling to communicate face-to-face instead of being on the phone," he says.
 
Face-to-face video calls on tablets are inexpensive, private, reliable and easy for both surgeon and patient to use. Their size makes tablets easy to transport for surgeons and easy to hold for patients. Henry Ford Hospital provides an iPad to the patients, as well as assistance from a medical resident or another member of the patient's health care team during the video chat. Soon, patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield also will have access to iPads, allowing more physicians to teleround.
 
"I've been surprised that even those who are not as technically savvy have really liked using the iPad for face-to-face communication," says Dr. Rogers. "For me, it's a great way to stay in touch with my patients, no matter where I am."

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