Houlton Regional receives tablets to connect COVID-19 patients with loved ones

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Being diagnosed with a case of COVID-19 and requiring hospitalization can be a lonely experience while isolated from family members in order to prevent further spread of the disease, which has already claimed the lives of around 390,000 Americans. 

For patients at Houlton Regional Hospital, those patients’ stays can be a little less lonely — thanks to a donation of smart tablets that patients can use to contact their loved ones. 

The donations came from COVID Tech Connect, a project sponsored by the national nonprofit organization The Giving Back Fund. Trudy Rairdon, a manager at the hospital, had first heard of the project from a listserv with the American Hospital Association. 

“I thought, that is just the nicest thing, and I hope we can take advantage,” recalled Rairdon. “So I asked my supervisor and it was okay if I reached out on behalf of the hospital and got an enthusiastic ‘Yes please!’” 

After filling out a brief questionnaire online, Rairdon was approved by COVID Tech Connect to receive 15 Samsung Galaxy tablets for the hospital, along with strong casings to ensure the tablets are not damaged while held by patients. The tablets arrived at the hospital in late December, just before the New Year. 

While most people are used to communicating with their mobile devices with apps such as Facetime, the hospital must have people use something that can protect patient privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The app Zoom, most commonly used for video conferencing, is one such app that meets those requirements. 

“We’re in the process of putting on all of the appropriate software,” said Rairdon. “We hope to have it rolled out really soon.”

Rairdon says that if there are more than enough tablets for COVID-19 patients, remaining tablets can be used by patients with other diseases who are bedridden in the hospital. 

“We’re going to open it up and use it for multiple folks,” said Rairdon. “But it’s primary use is for COVID patients.”

So far there have been 119 total COVID-19 cases reported in the Houlton area, including the towns of Hodgdon, Linneus and Littleton. While Houlton Regional declined to say how many COVID-19 patients they currently had, the hospital had around six patients at the beginning of the previous month, as well as recording its first death from the virus.