Long ago my uncle, a neuroscientist was admitted in the ICU with a blood clot in the brain. He was alert but had to be on ventilator. He was desperate to communicate with his family and relatives. My father was anxious to know what was in his brother’s mind. There was no way of knowing whether he was in pain or wanted to meet his son and many other questions.
This happens everyday in the ICU for many patients with an endotracheal tube . Intubation involves placing a tube in the throat for breathing which takes away the ability to speak but the mind is still alert as many of them are conscious. It is also true of post surgery cases as normally after a very major surgery, on the first post-operative day, the patient is on ventilator and is perfectly conscious.
How does one communicate in such situation?
Writing with all tubes dangling is difficult and the handwriting is hard to decipher.
It’s difficult to see them struggle just to say “ I am feeling cold” ( ICU for some reason is kept cold at 180 C).
We were thinking of a ‘touch activated figurative communication’ program. None were available.
Fortunately I could identify Tata interactive system who are the leading developers of learning solutions. With the help of ICU feedback from Dr Sanjith, we set out with a set of common requirements and the touch sensitive visual icons. The patient could communicate his simple requirements on his personal needs, medical care and also communicate with the family.
Vocalizer for patients is a free app available both in android and iOS platforms. It may be downloaded on a tablet and used for communication by your near and dear.
Not only in the ICU, it is also useful in situations where elderly cannot communicate effectively or have some other issues like tracheostomy or inability to speak due to neurological disorders.
This was funded by ‘Crusade Against Cancer Foundation’ as a social initiative. This will be improved further by adding more language options.
Hospital ICUs would serve patients better by just enabling ‘vocalizer on tablet’ and also displaying a notice in the ICUs.
Hope to make a difference !