In April 2020, the New York State Department of Health issued guidelines regarding suspension of hospital visitation due to coronavirus disease 2019 to protect staff and patients and prevent spread of the virus. Recognizing that patients would need extraordinary emotional support as they faced this frightening journey, two hospitals from a health system in the national epicenter provided avenues to bridge gaps in connectedness and communication. Our program provided virtual, visual and emotional connectivity by utilizing repurposed staff to serve as patient experience ambassadors. This program reduced the burden on clinical staff while preventing furlough. A descriptive correlational study was conducted that measured satisfaction of the program and connection provided. Subjects recruited for the study included patients and family members who used virtual platforms. Variables were measured using a Likert – type scale ranging from excellent to poor. Relationships between the variables were examined. This study revealed that participants were satisfied that the program improved connectedness; provided an adequate alternative to limited hospital visitation; provided emotional support and peace and closure in end-of-life situations. Respondents were satisfied with the patient experience ambassadors and would recommend the program. The overall rating was “good” (Mean = 3.267 SD 0.1039 Range 3.12 – 3.37) indicating a moderate to high degree of satisfaction. There were statistically significant differences in responses for connectedness, adequate alternative and rating in end-of-life visits versus others. There were no significant differences by hospital. The virtual communication platforms were successful in providing emotional support and bridging the gap in communication between patients and their loved ones.

Experience Framework

This article is associated with the Patient, Family & Community Engagement lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework (https://www.theberylinstitute.org/ExperienceFramework).