The Use of Digital Technologies in the Inpatient Setting to Promote Communication During the Early Stage of an Infectious Disease Outbreak: A Scoping Review

Telemed J E Health. 2023 Feb;29(2):172-197. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2021.0615. Epub 2022 Jun 27.


Background: Infectious disease outbreaks disrupt inpatient clinical care and have an impact on staff and patients' ability to communicate with each other and with the wider community. Digital technology may offer opportunities for communication in the inpatient setting during infectious disease outbreaks. Aim: This scoping review aimed to investigate the use of digital technology in the inpatient setting to promote communication in the early stages of an infectious disease outbreak. Methods: There were three aspects to this scoping review: (1) a database search of Ovid MEDLINE (MEDLINE), Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Association for Computing Machinery Digital Library (ACM) and IEEE Xplore (IEEE) exploring peer-reviewed articles, (2) a gray literature search, and (3) a media search. Results: Results focused on the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-eight peer-reviewed articles were extracted from the database search. There were three main areas of investigation: study characteristics, technology features, and benefits and barriers. Forty-four websites were searched for the gray literature search focusing on policy and guidance. Eighteen media articles were retrieved focusing on patients' use of technology and community involvement. Conclusion: Results demonstrate the diverse use of digital technology in the inpatient setting to facilitate communication during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the articles provide limited data to allow readers to fully understand and reproduce described actions. Furthermore, there was limited guidance to support clinicians to communicate using digital technology to create trusting therapeutic relationships. Areas for future development include standard reporting process for technology hardware, software, and content; and structured reporting and evaluation of the implementation of technologies.

Keywords: COVID; communication; hospitalization; infectious disease; technology; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communication
  • Digital Technology
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Pandemics