Patients who have to receive bone marrow transplants at the Cancer Department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center can now take advantage of high-tech bedside computing resources which help them keep in touch with their families and connect to Internet resources. The Cancer CareLink constitutes a welcome communication tool to bridge the distance with the outside world.
Cancer CareLink forms a joint pilot project between Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Division for Clinical Computing and the Cancer Department. This World Wide Web and videoconferencing system provides emotional and educational support for patients during their prolonged stay in the hospital.
While they remain in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, selected patients are given a bedside personal computer with a free high-speed Internet link, an e-mail address to be applied for messages to friends or family members as well as access to a specially designed Web site which provides information about the unit and supplies links to patient education materials.
The computer is also equipped with a videoconferencing component, that consists of a mounted camera, a microphone and speaker, to allow patients to communicate with their families. In turn, the patient's family is loaned a similar multimedia computer for the duration of the patient's hospitalization. In this way, Cancer CareLink forms a wonderful tool for mothers to visit with their children, since little ones are not allowed to come to the unit, according to Dr. David F. McDermott, a member of the Bone Marrow Transplant team and the clinical leader of Cancer CareLink.
The Cancer CareLink pilot project, which will determine whether the bedside computing resources improve care and optimize the patients' experience in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, has initially been offered to women who suffer from breast cancer and who are being submitted to the bone marrow transplants. Plans however are made in order to extend the programme to other cancer patients as well.
The first part of the CareLink project, referred to as Baby CareLink, has been piloted in March 1998 and provides a similar two-way videoconferencing and Internet system for parents whose babies stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The tool serves as a bridge between the acute care environment and the home environment, as explained by Dr. Charles Safran, who is Director of Informatics at the Division for Clinical Computing. High-tech equipment is often thought of as cold, whereas this is a warm and human application of the concerned technology, he continues.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a major clinical, research, and also teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, as well as a founding member of CareGroup Healthcare System in the United States.