Apollo has set up 26 such devices in main hospital

Hospitals believe, with good reason, that the infection rate in Intensive Care Units and Critical Care units is directly related to the number of people going in and out: not patients, their visitors. And patients’ relatives, with good reason, believe that they must be at the bedside of their near one.

In the stalemate between these two diametrically opposing points of view, sometimes there is a lot of bad blood. Now it seems as if the twain can meet amicably at a common point virtually. The Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF) has devised a workable model ‘I-See-U’ that allows patients and doctors virtual visits to the ICU to check on patients.

“We have been working on this for a year, after the go-ahead from the management. What we have is a customised camera (that will tilt, pan and zoom), installed in an ICU cubicle, and can be controlled from your own computer, android smart phones and tablets,” explains K. Ganapathy, senior neurologist, and president, ATNF.

“The ICU can be a very intimidating place for a patient, and the visit of relatives or friends might ameliorate the situation. Remember, not all people in ICUs are unconscious,” he says. To overcome the fear of transmitting infections and to help relatives who are anxious, visitors are allowed to see the patient, from a remote location.

I-SEE-U enables virtual visits by friends and relatives, even those outside the hospital, city or country, one at a time, or up to eight persons simultaneously. “Our software sends a one time password (valid for 30 minutes) to the mobile number of the registered ‘single point of contact’ for the patient, after he or she calls our special number,” he explains. This person can decide to share the password with relatives eager to visit the patient.

The request is then sent to the nurse in charge of the patient, and she decides if a virtual visit can be allowed. If allowed, relatives and friends can sign in via Internet Explorer on their systems and log into www.iseeu.apollo.net. There on, with the pass, they can chose to see various angles in the cubicle via the camera.

At the moment, Apollo has set up 26 such devices in the main hospital, in consultation with N. Ramakrishnan, Senior Consultant in Critical Care in charge of the ICU, and five in their Ayanambakam unit. “It does not cost much to install or set up, and can be a good model for hospitals across the country,” he further adds. At the moment, it is only available on certain operating systems, but that will change slowly as the team works on other OS too, he adds.

For the doctor, the primary consultant for the patient, I-SEE-U is a great boon, he adds. Kevin Devasia, deputy general manager, ATNF, demonstrates a doctor’s access to the ICU on an Android tablet. Several screens streaming live video from the bedside of the patient are displayed, and the doctor can choose to pick one and zoom in. “I can even zoom in to check the pupil reflexes of the patient, asking the nurse on standby to shine a torch into the eyes,” Dr. Ganapathy says.

Dr. Babu K. Abraham, consultant, critical care services, is on duty on Tuesday. As an intensivist who is in charge of the well being of the patient, he finds that the camera device is helpful to consult with the primary physician who cannot always be present at the bedside.

“Earlier we used to do a tele-consult, but now, the doctor can see the patient directly, and it is so much better,” he explains.

There is also a ‘virtual visit’ room set up in the hospital, to enable visitors who are not so tech-savvy to undergo the same experience.

At the moment, one virtual visit is offered complimentary, but eventually, a nominal charge will be levied per visit, Dr. Ganapathy says.