Every year, almost 800,000 patients in the United States are intubated with a tube inserted in their body to help them to breathe during hospitalization.
More than 50 percent of these patients are awake and alert, but they are unable to communicate with nurses, physicians and their loved ones save for scribbling on a piece of paper — not exactly conducive to a patient in an emergency medical situation.
Enter the tablet-based communication application called “Speak for Myself,” developed at Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing in Boca Raton.
“Speak for Myself” was developed by Rebecca Koszalinski during her doctoral studies under the guidance of Ruth Tappen, an eminent scholar and professor at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.
Results of a pilot study of Speak for Myself, conducted at three hospitals in South Florida, was recently published in the journal Computers, Informatics, Nursing. It found there is a disconnect between what health care providers think patients want to communicate and what patients actually want to say.
“When patients are not able to clearly verbalize their needs, there is an elevated risk of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, which could lead to errors and unintentional poorer quality of care,” Tappen said.
“While writing boards and other traditional methods may be helpful, important information is often lost. Furthermore, allowing others to speak for the patient has its limitations.”
The app lets a patient communicate his or her level of pain using a scale from 1 to 10. It also helps them convey their physical needs such as suctioning, repositioning and requests to use the bathroom.
During the study, one patient using the device was able to help doctors learn that the nasogastric tube had become twisted and was causing severe pain. Another patient communicated her end-of-life decisions to stop treatment and disconnect the mechanical ventilation that was keeping her alive.
“It is accurate to assert that with enhanced communication, patients will have less frustration, their pain will be better controlled, and they will have a greater opportunity to participate in their own care, and this is all supported in our study,” Tappen said.
approximately 1,600 nursing students enrolled in programs at FAU’s College of Nursing.