Virtual Visitation

Monday, March 28, 2011 - 2:31pm

Kansas hospital experiments with new technology for off-site visits.

Being hospitalized for an illness or surgery can be a scary and even lonely experience, especially if you're separated from family.

Now a Wichita, Kansas hospital is experimenting with some new technology to keep its patients in touch with loved ones.

Cindy Coleman is finally able to see her parents for the first time since she was admitted for testing.

"I think it's awesome," she said.

Because they are elderly and her father is sick, they couldn't come in person, but can now make a virtual visitation.

"I think it's great," said Pat and Don Coleman, Cindy's parents. "I hope this goes through where everybody could do it."

Right now, it's a pilot program at Via Christi Hospital.

Four portable computers with Web cams allow a patient to talk online with a loved one who may be too ill or far away to visit.

There is only one requirement.

"We have a confirmation from the participant on the other end that they have a web cam available, and they download some very simple software, and we just make the connection, and then they are able to visit," said Melissa Evraets with Via Christi on St. Teresa.

That one-on-one interaction often boosts the patient's morale.

"It really lifted my spirits to see her spirits lifted, to get to visit with our parents, and it lifted their spirits, because they've been wanting to physically see her and speak to her," said Jodie Mayer, Cindy's sister. "It's better this way than by phone."

If the trial program goes well, Via Christi plans to use the computers in all its facilities, helping patients feel a little more at home.

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