Patients who are on a ventilator face an enormous challenge in communicating with doctors, nurses and loved ones. A tube is passed through the vocal cords, causing patients to lose their ability to speak. Typically, ventilated patients are given a pen and paper or white board; however, this is a challenge because these patients lose their ability to write legibly due to sedation, medications, weakness and loss of dexterity. Simply even holding a pen can be too much of a task.
Patients who have been ventilated describe feeling terrified, trapped, alone and frustrated. Providers basically have two options, sedate them or provide them an effective means to communicate.
“When I most needed to communicate I couldn't speak, and I couldn't really make myself understood. “I kept trying to tell them I had pain in the back and uh they didn't understand what I was saying. Finally I just came to the point where I stopped.”
Approximately 5% of the 1,000,000 COVID-19 cases projected in the United States will result in patients being intubated due to the virus. That's 50,000 patients in addition to the 1.5M patients who get intubated every year due to medical illness or require ongoing mechanical ventilation after surgery.
We have an opportunity to make a big difference at a critical time offering evidenced-based communications solutions at no cost for patients and healthcare systems that desperately need them. Limited federal funds have been ear marked for small businesses providing critical tools for this crisis. But inefficiency and red tape have made it virtually impossible for us to get the funding we need to produce and distribute the thousands of EZ boards patients need right now.
Here is how we are solving this problem
Through their company, Vidatak , Lance Patak, an anesthesiologist at Children’s Hospital in Seattle and co-founder, Dr. Bryan Traughber, Director of Advanced Technologies and Brachytherapy at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center have designed several different types of communication systems to help non-verbal patients, such as patients on ventilators, communicate more easily.
The first tool, called the EZ Board, is a sturdy but lightweight picture and word board that allows weak, ventilated patients to express wants, convey needs, and indicate the type, degree and location of their pain and other concerns. The board, available in multiple languages in bilingual format, is evidenced-based, underwent 3 years of research at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, 5 different design iterations and validation testing with multiple subsequent studies. Use of the Vidatak EZ Board has been shown to reduce patient frustration and increase satisfaction with care.
“When I awoke in the recovery room, I had tubes in my mouth and nose and could not speak. My daughter brought an EZ Board to me and I was able to communicate all my needs through it. It is very easy to use because you can point, write, or spell your needs to everyone. I think it was crucial to my time in the recovery room to have had the EZ Board because it is frustrating…to be able to use only your eyes.” - Patsy Yeager
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Vidatak is offering the EZ Boards free of charge now through June 30th, based on appropriation for hospital size and demand. Email [email redacted].
Copyright © 2013 Mary Beth Happ SPEACS2 communication training program, developed by Mary Beth Happ, PhD, RN, FAAN | [email redacted]
The second communication tool, called VidaTalk , is an app that allows common phrases selected with a single touch, typing communication and drawing allowing for easy, quick and efficient customizable communication. This is currently the only patient-designed, research-based iPad communication tool for nonvocal and critically ill patients on the market. VidaTalk is also evidence-based and underwent a 5-year longitudinal study funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research (Federal Grant Number NR014087) which was conducted at The Ohio State University to ensure ether adaptation of the EZ Board into a digital format also met the unique end user needs of critically-ill, intubated patients.
Vidatak has also made the VidaTalk app available at no cost through June 30th.
The EZ Board and VidaTalk are essential components of a systematic patient communication program aimed to
- reduce sedation exposure
- reduce incidence of delirium
- decrease lengths of stay, and
- increase mobility and thereby helping decrease morbidity and mortality.
Here is how you can help
Vidatak is seeking donations so that these resources can continue to be provided to hospitals around the country at no cost. If you can't donate, we understand, especially in these uncertain times. But please share this campaign with as many people as you can and ask them to do the same.
Here is how the money would help:
Every $20 gets an EZ board delivered to a patient.
Every $2,000 helps us add another language to the VidaTalk application. This requires both translated text and interpreter voice recordings from male and female interpreters.
Limited federal funds have been ear marked for Small Businesses providing critical tools for this crisis, but our solutions did not make this list. Disaster relief funds designated for small businesses are insufficient to cover operating expenses and revenue loss and may not arrives for weeks if not months. To meet this crisis, we need to produce 50,000 EZ boards and add 10 additional languages to the VidaTalk app. Our 50k fundraising target will allow us to immediately manufacture and ship 5,000 EZ boards to hospitals that need them the most.
We are closely monitoring the growing number of ventilated patients in our country and are prepared to continue to support the need for communication tools as long as we are able. However, we cannot do this without your help and the generous donations of our community.
We thank you for your consideration to donate to this cause.