Communication in the Time of Coronavirus: Three Tips for Enhancing Communication with Families in the Intensive Care Unit that are here to stay

Author(s): Kashika G Goyal, Tyler Trahan, Margaret M Hayes

Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID19) has forced the rapid evolution of ICU care including re-evaluation of ICU triage, resource utilization, staffing models and in the most stark manner end of life care. Family members, usually present on rounds and in waiting rooms, are suddenly absent, making family meetings nearly impossible and critical decisions challenging. It would be not only understandable, but also expected if communication broke down during this time. Across countries and hospital systems, the importance of communication and the need for end of life care when required has become paramount. However, translating that to direct patient care can remain nebulous. We present three tangible strategies, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance communication in the ICU, that have now become routine in our ICUs. Those strategies include making family updates a daily occurrence and integrated into the workflow of ICU rounds, documenting these conversations in the medical record, and the expansive use of technology and telehealth to further bridge the physical gap that now exists between family members and ICU teams. These strategies are straight forward and pragmatic but if implemented can change care patterns both in a positive and lasting way.

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