Tech giant Apple has rolled out iPad donations to six hospitals across Ireland, to help staff and patients communicate during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cork University Hospital (CUH) was one of the first hospitals involved in the initiative.
The iPads were used by patients to communicate with their families while visiting restrictions were in place. Some iPads were also used to provide chaplaincy services at the end of life stage.
Apple also designed a GDPR-compliant communications solution for the iPads, using Webex software in collaboration with Cisco.
Employees at Apple's Hollyhill campus also volunteered to help develop a Covid-19 triage app, in conjunction with Dr Desmond Murphy, Consultant Respiratory Physician and Clinical Lecturer at CUH and UCC.
The triage app was designed to educate doctors and to help frontline healthcare workers to quickly diagnose Covid-19 patients, based on a number of key assessment criteria. The app was installed on the donated iPads.
Michael Nason, the CEO of CUH Charity, said during the pandemic, technology was utilized to help staff and patients alike.
"It all started with the request from the triage people for an app that would assist them, specifically after their job was being impacted by Covid.
"I met with some people from Apple, who said they were based in Cork and would like to roll out potential donations, such as iPads. They wanted to facilitate their usage in hospitals in Cork, and once we tested that and wrote the procedures for it, then they could roll it out to other hospitals."
After the triage app success, the iPads were used to facilitate communication between family members and patients.
"The nurses in ICU are very much at the frontline and dealing with patients who are going to die, and the patients can't get a visit from family [in person]," said Mr Nason.
CUH met with Apple and one of their partners, Cisco, to go through GDPR compliance. "When a patient and their family use an iPad for engagement, all of their data is then wiped out, so when it is used for the next patient there are no GDPR concerns or trail [of information].
"What the clinicians found is that they were able to use the iPad to have a dialogue with the family also. As we can only imagine, those were difficult conversations. But thank god the iPad was there to at least allow people to say goodbye.
"Covid is very specific, but sadly we have regular occasions where patients can't get out of their bed, they need to interact with family who are not in Cork, or their family may be unable to travel themselves. So the [iPads] got utilised in other departments."
CUH has now set up a steering group to examine how IT can improve patient care.
"We sat on a Webex call with a number of other hospitals, and Breda Doyle, a nurse from CUH's ICU, talked them through what she's done. She has written a manual and that's being shared with other hospitals."
Mr Nason says the donations from Apple were particularly vital, considering all of the events that the charity office had planned for the year are now cancelled.