UCSF partners with Skype to connect patients with family & friends

By Kate Vidinsky

Released jointly by UCSF and Skype

UCSF Children’s Hospital and UCSF Medical Center have partnered with Skype to help connect hospital inpatients with family members and friends who are unable to visit in person. The innovative new collaboration is the first such partnership between Skype and a hospital.

The Skype video and voice calling program is now available to all inpatients at the UCSF hospitals. Using designated laptop computers with Skype software delivered to the bedside, patients can have virtual visits with family and friends around the globe on a secure network. According to Lila Param, director of pediatric services at UCSF Children’s Hospital, Skype supports the healing process by overcoming geographical boundaries that can lead to a sense of isolation among patients.

“Skype allows our patients to feel connected to family and friends who they are unable to see in person. The sense of isolation in the hospital is eliminated using this technology, and patients feel more at ease during their stay with us,” Param said. “We at UCSF Children’s Hospital and UCSF Medical Center are so very grateful to partner with Skype and appreciate their generosity and commitment to using technology to support our patients’ health care.”

“Anyone who’s ever been hospitalized knows how important it is to communicate easily and frequently with friends and family during that time,” said Don Albert, general manager for Skype Americas. “This project helps UCSF Children’s Hospital and UCSF Medical Center patients maintain those much-needed personal connections. It speaks to the heart of what Skype does best.”

The collaboration was first devised during the 2009 winter flu season, when UCSF implemented a temporary change in the hospitals’ visitor policy that banned children under the age of 16 from entering patient care areas in order to prevent the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu. Camilla Sutter, a UCSF Children’s Hospital child life specialist, witnessed the frustration and sadness experienced by patients who could not receive visits from young family members and friends, and saw an opportunity to break down visitation barriers using rich communication technologies.

Sutter and Param presented the idea of a partnership to Skype executives who enthusiastically backed the idea and donated computers, webcams and technical support services to get the project up and running. In addition, UCSF Medical Center vendor Motion Computing, Inc., donated a highly specialized computer cart that has been set up as a mobile Skype terminal, allowing inpatients to take their virtual visitors on a tour of their hospital rooms and other areas.

“Using Skype at the hospital has created some very powerful connections for patients,” Sutter said. “The technology enables patients to say hello, reconnect with, or – most poignantly – say goodbye to those who cannot visit.”

While the visitor restrictions due to flu have since been lifted, hospital staff continues to find compelling applications for Skype. Cystic fibrosis inpatients, for example, who are unable to be in the same vicinity as other cystic fibrosis patients due to an increased risk for infection, now can use Skype to communicate with one another from separate hospital rooms. Skype also has proved valuable for patients who are confined to their hospital rooms after bone marrow transplants or radiation treatments.

“Skype gives these patients the opportunity to genuinely connect with others, and in doing so, children and adolescents are better able to cope with their illnesses,” Param added. “We really have just begun to tap into the possibilities that Skype can offer in the health care setting.”


About Skype

Skype is software that enables the world’s conversations. Millions of individuals and businesses use Skype to make free video and voice calls, send instant messages and share files with other Skype users. Everyday, people everywhere also use Skype to make low-cost calls to landlines and mobiles. Download Skype to your computer or mobile phone at skype.com.

About UCSF Children’s Hospital

UCSF Children’s Hospital creates an environment where children and their families find compassionate care at the forefront of scientific discovery, with more than 150 experts in 50 medical specialties serving patients throughout Northern California and beyond. The hospital admits about 5,000 children each year, including 2,000 babies born in the hospital. For more information, visit https://www.ucsfchildrenshospital.org.

About UCSF Medical Center

UCSF Medical Center consistently ranks as one of the top 10 hospitals in the United States. Recognized for innovative treatments, advanced technology, collaboration among clinicians and scientists, and a highly compassionate team of patient care providers, UCSF Medical Center serves as the academic medical center of the University of California, San Francisco—a leading health sciences institution.  The Medical Center’s nationally preeminent programs include children’s health, the brain and nervous system, organ transplantation, women’s health, and cancer. It operates as a self-supporting enterprise within UCSF and generates its own revenues to cover the operating costs of providing patient care. For more information, visit https://www.ucsfhealth.org/.

About UCSF

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. For further information, visit https//www.ucsf.edu.

Additional contact:

Meghan Cross, Kaplow Communications for Skype
Phone: (212) 221-1713
E-mail: [email protected]