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Apps That Help ICU Patients Communicate

Untitled Document August 2015

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

Apps That Help ICU Patients Communicate

We all appreciate that it can be very difficult for intubated patients or patients with other limitations to communicate effectively with staff. Over the years we have used a number of different techniques. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices in hospitals, a number of new approaches are now available to help in this area.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine has released an ICU Patient Communicator Appfor iPads. This app was designed to help critical care providers communicate with patients who are unable to speak due to mechanical ventilation, hearing, or speech limitations. The app also features translation capabilities in 19 different languages that provide the opportunity to have a two-way conversation between physician and patient. The app allows patients to identify where on the body they are feeling sensations as well as the severity. Pain, itching, and nausea can all be identified in exact locations on the body and rated on a scale of 0-10 for severity. It also includes more than 30 translatable phrases that allow patients to express various needs related to their care and wellbeing. It is rated on the app store at 4+, and you can download it from iTunes for $12.99.

Another patient communications app is available for iPads from Lingraphica and is called SmallTalk Intensive Care. This app provides a picture-based vocabulary of phrases that patients can use to communicate their needs and feelings to care providers, including “I have chest pain” and “I want a doctor.”

The app is designed for anyone who has difficulty speaking or is unable to speak, due to either having a language impairment, not being a native speaker, or being intubated. Phrases are spoken in a natural human voice and accompanying pictures clearly illustrate their meaning so that users do not need to be able to read English. Lingraphica is a company that provides device training for speech-language pathologists, individuals with aphasia, and caregivers. It is also rated on the app store at 4+, and you can download it from iTunes for free.

An app that is not specifically designed for use in the ICU, but is potentially useful, is Phraseboard Keyboard. This app allows messages that patients can select to be created and saved. Phrases can be saved in different categories to potentially make finding them easier. The app does not come with any specific ICU phrases so these would need to be set up. The app also allows images to be saved that patients could select if language is a problem. This app runs on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch devices as long as they support iOS 8.0 or later. It is also rated on the app store at 4+, and you can download it for free from iTunes.

I have not used these applications so I cannot give my personal opinion, but they all look very reasonable, especially the two that are preconfigured for medical use.

Editor’s note: The ATS does not endorse any of the programs or products mentioned in this column.

Last Reviewed: September 2017