Bayhealth-Kent General and Milford Memorial hospitals recently began offering a service where loved ones can email hospital patients.
Bayhealth’s Kent General and Milford Memorial hospitals began a program several years ago that allowed family members to send cards to patients in the hospital. This program was part of an initiative that Bayhealth began in 2005 to offer patient-first care, with the help of Planetree, a non-profit organization.
Through the card program, family members would select cards and Bayhealth staff would print and deliver them to patients. However, the service began to be too much work to provide. A special printer and cardstock paper had to be used to print the cards, staff then had to fold them, place them in envelopes and address them, said Leslie McClements, chair of the Planetree committee. This led the committee to begin looking for alternatives.
Bayhealth began looking for a way to allow loved ones to send patients greetings and messages through emails. The Email-a-Patient program has been in the works for about a year now and was finally implemented several weeks ago.
In order to send a patient an email, friends and loved ones can go to bayhealth.org and click the “Email a Patient” icon. They can then select what type of banner they’d like to appear at the top of their email, with options that include Congratulations on a new baby, Happy Birthday and Get Well Soon. Once a sender selects a banner they then write their message and send it off.
The email is sent to an account that is monitored by patient advocacy staff. When an email comes in, it is printed by the staff and delivered to the patient’s room by a hospital volunteer.
The program helps to connect family and patients, said Donna Henderson, Planetree coordinator for Bayhealth.
“When you’re not feeling well, being able to have family and loved ones around you is nice,” Henderson said. “If you have family that is a distance away you may not be able to talk to them on the phone; this is another avenue to be able to reach out and let patients know they’re thinking about them.”
Dover is a military town and the new program also works well for those who are deployed and need a way to keep in touch with a loved one in the hospital, said McClements. From a patient stand point, the emails can brighten up a stay in the hospital.
“Sometimes it’s hard to keep your spirits up when you’ve been in the hospital for more than a couple days,” McClements said. “This is good for patients who don’t have many visitors… Friends and family may want to come visit but can’t squeeze it in or don’t have a schedule that is consistent with normal visitation hours. This way they can at least send a message.”