BOCA RATON — A former Florida Atlantic University nursing student saw a need to help patients connected to a breathing tube communicate with doctors, nursed and family.
So she created a tablet application to do just that.
Rebecca Koszalinski, who developed the app while enrolled in the doctoral nursing program at FAU, created “Speak For Myself,” a tool that “empowers the voiceless,” according to a university press release. The app allows patients to communicate their pain levels, feelings and other requests while intubated.
“Patients want to be heard, to retain control, and to contribute to decisions about their care, even if it is without a voice,” said Koszalinski, now a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, in a statement. “Technology at the bedside can play a significant role in making this a reality.”
The app uses graphics to help patients quickly and easily communicate pain levels. It also has shortcuts for medical terms and other needs.
The app was tested in three South Florida hospitals. Doctors and nurses noticed a disconnect in what they thought patients were conveying and what patients actually wanted to say, according to Koszalinski’s research. Most of the patients who used the app were between 45 and 91 years old and hospitalized in the intensive care units.
“When patients are not able to clearly verbalize their needs, there is an elevated risk of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, which could lead to errors and unintentional poorer quality of care,” said Ruth Tappen, a professor at FAU’s College of Nursing who oversaw development of the app.
One of the most dramatic examples of how the app was used, according to the university, came when a patient unexpectedly asked nurses to disconnect mechanical ventilation in an end-of-life scenario.