Digitalization against social isolation – patients and doctors at Heidelberg University Hospital benefit from digital solutions

“Due to my previous illness, this is not my first stay in hospital, but the current situation makes it very difficult for me to keep my hopes up alive,” said Isolde Peters (name changed), 92-year-old heart patient who has been at Heidelberg University Hospital for seven days. Due to the nationwide COVID-19 protection measures, she is largely isolated from the social world outside. “I hardly see my children and my grandchildren live in the US. I worry every day.”

On initiative of the Heidelberg research network Informatics for Life the “#Hearts-against-Covid” campaign was launched bringing patients and their relatives virtually together. Thanks to a generous donation from the Klaus Tschira Foundation, tablet computers for video telephony were purchased enabling patients without smartphones to access virtual communication. “Before, I could not have imagined this, but when you are isolated in hospital, the greatest joy of my day is to see my grandchildren smile at me and to see that everyone is doing well,” says Isolde Peters visibly relieved.

“We have created a new way of communication for patients during these difficult times. Seeing their family is more than just entertainment. It is medicine,” said Benjamin Meder, member of the board of directors of Informatics for Life. “In the meantime we have not only created new possibilities for our patients, but we are also conducting all physician training courses via the digital channel.” Heidelberg medical students are also involved in the project helping patients to use the new technology and providing them with advice and support.

Professor Meder’s team also views the digital approaches as a long-term solution to various issues. For example, virtual meetings can help to conserve valuable resources and to reduce greenhouse gases in the future.

Foto: Medical student from Heidelberg is taking part in a virtual training course at the Department of Cardiology, Angiology and Pneumology (Director: Hugo A. Katus). The students are also very committed to explaining the new technology to patients.