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Visiting the doctor’s office can often leave many feeling scared or anxious, especially if they are there to receive life-changing news. Having a caregiver or loved one at the appointment offers a blanket of comfort for any patient, leaving them with the feeling of not being alone. But as COVID-19 has forced health care institutions, such as Moffitt Cancer Center, to change their visitor policies, patients must now attend their appointments alone.

At Moffitt, it is the norm for patients to bring caregivers and loved ones to their appointments. They find relief in knowing that their support systems can attend to help ask the right questions or simply provide hope when the world at the moment is moving fast. As social distancing and stricter visitor policies continue at the cancer center, patients and their loved ones are now having to find alternative methods to attend visits.

“Our goal is to help keep patients connected with their loved ones. We know how hard this no visitor policy is on them and want to try to help support them,” said Cristina Perez, director of patient experience at Moffitt. “Here at Moffitt we are very patient and family centered and know how important the role of the caregiver is to the patient and the healing process and we want to ensure even if it’s virtually they are connected.”

Cristina Perez, Director of Patient Experience at Moffitt

Knowing that caregivers may need to be present at the cancer patient’s appointment, the team at Moffitt came up with a solution to the problem – virtual caregiver visits. To ensure that patients and their loved ones stay connected throughout their time at the hospital, Moffitt is encouraging patients to use their smartphones. Before every appointment, patients are being asked do they have a device to connect and are then provided a link to share with their family. Connecting via Zoom or FaceTime keeps the line of communication consistent between patients and their families who cannot be with them at the clinic.

Not every patient has access to a smartphone, which Moffitt understands. The cancer center is helping patients who do not own a smart device by allowing them to borrow iPads during their visit. A Moffitt team member prepares the iPad for the patient and has it available once they come in for their appointment. Patients are allowed to keep the iPad during the duration of their on-campus visit, ensuring that their loved one will have a quick and easy way to stay in contact.  

To eliminate any added stress a patient may face while trying to deal with the new technology, Moffitt team members are also offering their support by helping patients navigate through the virtual visit.

“We have team members trained and ready to help support the patient on-site and the caregiver over the phone or via Zoom, we can even do practice sessions to ensure everyone is connected,” said Perez.

Since the inclusion of the program, Moffitt has seen an increase of patients and caregivers wanting to stay virtually connected. “We started with one to two requests and now our average is three to five a day and growing,” Perez said. “Many patients and caregivers are asking to stay connected or help on their device.”

As the world slowly returns to normal and visitor policies become relaxed, patients and caregivers know that at Moffitt they can always be connected, even if it is virtually.

How can you help? Give now to our COVID-19 Frontline Response Fund.