Minnesota Hospital Association


May 26, 2021

Using technology to keep families connected during COVID-19 pandemic

This story is featured in MHA's community benefit report.

Conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals to put temporary no-visitor policies in place. Thanks to donations to the COVID-19 Response and Relief Fund established across its system, HealthPartners was able to use technology to connect patients and families during isolation.

One of the first people connected were Pauline and Todd Johnson of Roseville. Todd stayed at Regions Hospital in St. Paul from March 25 to April 16, 2020, and was on a ventilator for 13 days. For the first week, Pauline, his wife, received daily phone updates.

“I spoke with so many people, all of them so kind. They made a difficult interaction positive,” Pauline said. Then she was offered what she calls her lifeline. “A sweet nurse called and said, ‘What about an iPad chat?’”

A team at Regions purchased iPads for each of the hospital’s intensive and palliative care units and created a secure video process to connect patients with loved ones. The practice has continued at other HealthPartners and Park Nicollet hospitals with the help of their respective foundations’ COVID-19 relief funds.

The Park Nicollet Foundation bought nine iPads for the spiritual care team, Methodist Hospital inpatient oncology and hospice floors and respiratory therapy department. Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater and Amery and Westfields hospitals in Wisconsin also received iPads.

On April 8, Todd was taken off the ventilator and able to speak with his family. “It was incredible just to hear his voice and see the blue of his eyes,” Pauline said tearfully. “He needed to know where he was and that he was safe. He felt better being able to see and hear me.”

Todd was discharged and went home eight days later. The Johnsons made a donation to the relief fund in honor of Todd and his care team.

“We want everyone to have the same opportunity we had,” Pauline said, “so more families can connect with their family during this pandemic and beyond.”