Background: When the COVID-19 pandemic restricted visitation between intensive care unit patients and their families, the virtual intensive care unit (vICU) in our large tertiary hospital was adapted to facilitate virtual family visitation. The objective of this paper is to document findings from interviews conducted with family members on three categories: (1) feelings experienced during the visit, (2) barriers, challenges or concerns faced using this service, and (3) opportunities for improvements.
Methods: Family members were interviewed postvisit via phone. For category 1 (feelings), automated analysis in Python using the Valence Aware Dictionary for sentiment Reasoner package produced weighted valence (extent of positive, negative or neutral emotive connotations) of the interviewees' word choices. Outputs were compared with a manual coder's valence ratings to assess reliability. Two raters conducted inductive thematic analysis on the notes from these interviews to analyse categories 2 (barriers) and 3 (opportunities).
Results: Valence-based and manual sentiment analysis of 230 comments received on feelings showed over 86% positive sentiments (88.2% and 86.8%, respectively) with some neutral (7.3% and 6.8%) and negative (4.5% and 6.4%) sentiments. The qualitative analysis of data from 57 participants who commented on barriers showed four primary concerns: inability to communicate due to patient status (44% of respondents); technical difficulties (35%); lack of touch and physical presence (11%); and frequency and clarity of communications with the care team (11%). Suggested improvements from 59 participants included: on demand access (51%); improved communication with the care team (17%); improved scheduling processes (10%); and improved system feedback and technical capabilities (17%).
Conclusions: Use of vICU for remote family visitations evoked happiness, joy, gratitude and relief and a sense of closure for those who lost loved ones. Identified areas for concern and improvement should be addressed in future implementations of telecritical care for this purpose.
Keywords: critical care; human factors; qualitative research; quality improvement; visiting.
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