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Examining the impact of COVID-19 visitor restrictions and communication modalities on family member satisfaction in the surgical intensive care unit
Tessa Cattermole1, Emma Dunne2, Thomas Ahern1, Ajai Malhotra1, Larson Erb1
1Surgery, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, United States, 2Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, United States

Objective: To compare patient family member satisfaction with in-person versus remote communication with healthcare providers in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) before and during coronavirus (COVID-19) visitor restrictions.
Design: Single-site, retrospective observational study and survey.
Setting: Academic, tertiary care center SICU
Patients: Primary communicators for patients managed by a SICU team for ≥48 hours between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020.
Interventions: N/A
Main Outcome Measure: Satisfaction, quantified by the Modified Society of Critical Care Medicine Family Needs Assessment Instrument (10-40 points; higher scores indicate less satisfaction). Associations are reported as adjusted differences in median scores.
Results: In-person communicators [n=38 (64%)] were more likely than remote communicators [n=20 (34%)] to be female (84% vs. 70%), related to the patient by marriage/partnership (55% vs. 10%), and living <30 minutes from the hospital (42% vs. 20%). In-person communicators reported greater overall satisfaction than remote communicators (score difference= -3; 95% CI: -6.8, 0.81). Greater satisfaction among in-person communicators was driven by responses within the provider comforting skills domain (subscore range: 3-12 points; score difference=-3; 95% CI: -6.4, 0.39). Covid group was not associated with satisfaction independently of primary communication mode.
Conclusions: Remote communication was associated with diminished family member satisfaction compared with in-person communication, suggesting the need for improvement of this increasingly utilized communication modality, whether due to ad hoc visitor restrictions or family member distance from the hospital. Improving providers" remote comforting skills could benefit overall family member satisfaction when in-person communication is limited. COVID-19 visitor restrictions alone were not associated with diminished family member satisfaction.


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