Daily Telephone Call During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Perceptions of Families and Providers

Am J Crit Care. 2022 Jan 1;31(1):77-81. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2022797.


Background: In intensive care units (ICUs), the quality of communication with families is a key point in the caregiver-patient-family relationship. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital visits were prohibited, and many ICUs implemented a daily telephone call strategy to ensure continuity of communication with patients' families.

Objective: To assess how family members and health care providers perceived this communication strategy.

Methods: The study was conducted in a 45-bed ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communication with families consisted of a single daily telephone call from the senior physician in charge of the patient to the patient's surrogate decision maker. Satisfaction was qualitatively assessed via an anonymous online questionnaire with open-ended questions.

Results: Participants completed 114 questionnaires. Forty-six percent of surrogate decision makers stated that the key medical messages were understandable, but 57% of other family members expressed that the frequency of information delivery was insufficient. Fifty-six percent of the physicians described the practice as functional for the organization of the unit. Among health care providers other than physicians, 55% felt that not having to interact with families decreased their emotional load and 50% mentioned saving time and the absence of task interruptions as positive aspects.

Conclusion: Fixed-time, daily telephone calls in the ICU allowed satisfactory transmission of information between physicians and surrogate decision makers, as perceived by both parties. However, the telephone-based communication strategy could still be improved.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communication
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pandemics
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Telephone