Published on October 05, 2020

Connecting Through IPads

Essentia Health-Oak Crossing resident Eugene Morrison (right) uses an iPad to connect with his family. Chaplain Kurt Jacobson (left) sets up the iPad for long-term care residents.

Essentia Health-Oak Crossing resident Eugene Morrison (right) uses an iPad to connect with his family. Chaplain Kurt Jacobson sets up the iPad for long-term care residents throughout the week. While visitors are now allowed at long-term care settings in certain scenarios, the iPads are still helping residents connect with loved ones – especially family members who live in other areas of the country.

COVID-19 has forever changed the way we care for patients and one another. At the start of the pandemic, hospitals, and long-term care centers limited visitors to keep patients, residents, visitors, and staff safe. This meant patients and residents needed new ways to connect with loved ones near and far.

The Essentia Health Foundation has the privilege of using gifts from generous donors to make a healthy difference in people’s lives every day. Thanks to nearly $65,000 in contributions from Foundation supporters, Essentia was able to respond to the needs of patients, families, and front-line staff by purchasing 80 iPads, 364 portable iPad stands, and associated equipment for distribution across the organization.

“While nothing can compare to face-to-face contact, we knew iPads could make families feel closer during quarantine and shelter-in-place orders,” says LeAnn Mouw, development director at the Essentia Health Foundation. “The wonderful benefit of having this technology available is, even after the pandemic, the ability to connect families from a distance will remain.”

Currently, the iPads are being used to support patient and family communication. “The iPads are important tools for patients to connect with family members who can’t be there due to safety reasons,” explains Dr. Sarah Manney, Essentia’s chief medical information officer. “Having the ability to help them be comforted by that connection is so important.”

Chaplain Kurt Jacobson offers spiritual care to a diverse population within Essentia facilities. Jacobson explains that for those in our long-term care communities, Zoom visits on the iPads have been key in improving residents’ psychosocial well-being.

“A gentleman, who’s a dad and grandpa, does an iPad visit every week. The smiles say it all when he gets to see his son, daughter-in-law, daughter, and grandsons,” says Jacobson. “We have a mother who visits with her daughters. When she hears their voices and they say mom, occasionally there’s a tear. It keeps that relationship with the family, which we’ve lacked during the pandemic.”

During a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, care teams plan to use the iPads for nurse or provider patient consults that don’t require in-person interaction. Processes are also being created to support communication between care teams and families of patients with COVID-19 who cannot have visitors for safety reasons.

The technology is also being used to connect patients and hospital care teams with interpreters, social workers, and behavioral health professionals in some areas.

After facilitating Zoom visits on the iPads for more than 100 days, Jacobson recalls many joy-filled moments. One instance that comes to mind involves a resident who suffers from dementia. While he can’t speak, he smiles when he sees his wife on the screen, and she tells him he’s still handsome and that she loves him. “It’s a tool worth every penny,” says Jacobson. “I’ve seen it bring joy even in these most uncertain times to families.”

How to Make an Online Donation

Visit our Give a Gift page and select from our list of Essentia Health campaigns and local foundations.


Like most websites, we use cookies and other technologies to keep our website reliable, secure, and to better understand how our site is used. By using our site, you agree to our use of these tools. Learn more.