Study Shows VidaTalk Reduces Psychological Stress and Improves Neuromotor Coordination During Critical Illness

Moving away from yes/no questions and simple requests to meaningful dialogue amongst critically ill speechless patients, their families and care providers

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A new study finds a new communication app helps ICU patients overcome the terrifying, muted experience of having a breathing tube and requiring a breathing machine to keep them alive. Manufactured by Vidatak, the nation's leader in hospital-based patient, family, and caregiver communication products, VidaTalk not only supports an ICU environment whereby these critically ill patients are able to actively participate in their care and avoid sedation, but the study also reveals how VidaTalk helps these patients clearly communicate their needs and expands family-patient communication by enabling clear and broad communication.

One family member stated: ''Her ability to use the tablet opened up communication, that was the beginning of a more healthy attitude aiding in her recovery," and, "After the tablet was in use, communication on all levels was achieved ... wants, needs, humour, financial, legal ... the door was once again opened."

VidaTalk was developed with funding support from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Nursing Research (NR014087) to address the human factor requirements for critically ill patients to communicate simple messages about pain, symptoms, needs, feelings, and requests during mechanical ventilation. VidaTalk enables patients to navigate a series of menu screens and make a selection using the touchscreen to select words, phrases and picture icons that represent what they want to communicate. Typing and finger drawing allow the patient to generate novel messages. Because of its intuitive design, paired with robust capacity to serve extremely sick patients who are too weak to write legibly and unable to speak, VidaTalk has since evolved to also serve patients with limited English proficiency throughout the hospital, even when they're not critically ill.

This study reports several other key findings, each supported by numerous quotes from patients' families with a select few highlighted here.

Patients were able to report their symptoms, discomfort, and pain using picture icons or pain descriptors within the VidaTalk app.

A family member commented, ''I remember her pointing to her legs and bottom on the VidaTalk [body diagram] to show us what was bothering her. We were able to let the nurses know where her pain was coming from." Without being able to clearly communicate their symptoms and location, serious medical problems for intubated patients may go unrecognized, which can lead to significant delays in treatment and increased morbidity and mortality, depending on the medical omission.

VidaTalk empowered nonverbal patients to be able to convey complicated topics such as questions about home/family, finances, and future plans. This allowed critically ill patients to ask about things that needed to be addressed with their care, discuss their treatment plan with families, and request test results.

Family members recalled how VidaTalk helped their loved ones express their emotions. "I remember her pressing the button that said she was scared. She (patient) also expressed her feeling of gratitude. She thanked us and told us she loved us on the tablet ... Her being able to express feelings of gratitude for those helping her was most rewarding." Another relative shared, ''I was so emotional at that time; Harrison expressed his concerns about his condition and his feeling of hopelessness, and I encouraged him to be strong and everything's gonna be OK."

Using the VidaTalk app provided rehabilitative benefits including neuromotor coordination as well as the psychological benefits of improved attitude, confidence, and wellbeing.

''Everyone was aware in her overall abilities improving, all centered around being able to talk through the tablet."

One family caregiver described the unexpected rehabilitative benefits of using VidaTalk, ''Other unexpected benefits of the tablet were improvement of hand-eye coordination and other motor skills such as stretching to reach for the tablet, increasing range of motion. Everyone was aware in her overall abilities improving, all centered around being able to talk through the tablet."

VidaTalk also brought relief to family members and restored vital family connections. One husband explained, ''Elated, is the best way to describe my feelings of being able to communicate with my wife." 

A patient's wife expressed her gratitude. ''We were relieved to have the ability to communicate clearly with my husband — this reduced the additional stress we all felt. I can't imagine a more frustrating and stress filled situation than witnessing a loved who is in the hospital ICU and unable to communicate clearly. We were all worried about his health and the added stress of not understanding his wishes greatly increased his frustration and our worry for his peace of mind, care and comfort. The tablet eliminated this."

VidaTalk is currently available in 19 different languages with pre-programmed, third-party verified translations, executing both text and speech output with each selection. Pain assessment includes use of multiple pain scales. Languages that have been implemented are based on language frequency in the U.S. and customer demand; the most frequent include Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French and Haitian Creole. Other languages included in the application are German, Arabic, Farsi, Korean, Russian, Italian, Bosnian, Indonesian, Hindi, Polish, Portuguese, and Japanese. VidaTalk has been shown to improve communication between families, nurses and mechanically ventilated patients. VidaTalk is also used as a point-of-care translation tool, helping patients with limited English proficiency communicate with their care provider during routine care when interpreters are not readily available.

VidaTalk is integrating with language access providers, serving as an additional access point to improve ease of access and ease of use around persistent workflow issues related to interpreter services. "It has always been our vision to shift control of communication timing and frequency, along with access to resources when assistive devices are needed, from the providers and into the hands of the patient," said Dr. Lance Patak, CEO of Vidatak, LLC. "We have to make it easier for everyone — providers, patients, families and the organizations responsible for executing on this challenge. Understanding the human factors and workflow processes of all end users is key."

Shin JW, Happ MB, Tate JA. VidaTalk™ patient communication application "opened up" communication between nonvocal ICU patients and their family. Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2021 Jun 12:103075. doi: 10.1016/j.iccn.2021.103075. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34127362.

Source: Vidatak, LLC

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