Hospice of Southwest Ohio Merges High Tech with High Touch

Packing for one last visit with her dying father in Ohio, an Illinois woman gets the call that her father is rapidly declining. It is clear she will not be able to reach him before he passes away at the Patient Care Center at Hospice of Southwest Ohio (HSWO) in Cincinnati.

Then, the HSWO nurse on duty proposes that the daughter log onto her computer to be connected to HSWO’s VGo (pronounced VEE go) robot, virtually bringing her into the room with her father. She converses with her father and is able to say a final goodbye. 

Bringing family members together in the last moments of life is just one of the benefits of VGo, a slender 4-foot tall robot on wheels (similar in shape to a light-weight vacuum cleaner) that establishes your physical presence in a distant location. Through your Internet connection, you appear on the VGo screen, and you control the movement of the VGo with your computer mouse or keyboard. Some describe it as having your own personal “avatar.”

HSWO recently acquired two VGo units to connect both families and medical providers with a patient at a moment’s notice.

“Our purchase of these units supports our primary objective of providing the best possible care for patients and families using technology to enhance the distinct human touch that distinguishes HSWO among hospice providers,” says HSWO CEO Joe Killian.

Other VGo applications that bring people closer together in HSWO’s Patient Care Center include:

  • Hospice physicians can establish immediate visual contact with a patient 24 hours a day. If the doctor has already made his daily visit to the unit, and a patient is admitted late at night, the doctor can still see and converse with the new patient through VGo.
  • When a nurse has questions about wound care (e.g. bed sores), swelling, skin rashes or other physical symptoms, the physician can directly visualize these conditions and make an accurate assessment and treatment plan.
  • Family members who are not able to come to the Patient Care Center due to time or distance constraints can arrange a visit with their loved one through VGo. Even people out of the country can connect with those in HSWO’s Patient Care Center.
  • A family member not able to physically attend a loved one’s memorial service or funeral can attend virtually through VGo.

“The VGo is enhancing care, not replacing the human touch,” emphasizes HSWO CEO Joe Killian. “Nurses and physicians are doing as much as they have before. This is another way of taking the guesswork out of the assessment when a physician can’t be immediately on site.

“Our goal is to provide the best hospice care in Greater Cincinnati, and we’re open to using technology to accomplish that. We do everything we can to bring people together.”

Killian notes that there is no charge to patients and families for using the VGo. Once the robot’s use is firmly established in the inpatient Patient Care Center, he anticipates expanding VGo’s use for HSWO home hospice clients.

For more information, contact HSWO at 513-770-0820.

Hospice of Southwest Ohio (HSWO) provides hospice services to patients and families of Southwest Ohio at home, in nursing homes and in hospitals. A nine-suite Patient Care Center, opened in February 2014 in Madeira, cares for inpatients with hard-to-manage symptoms. HSWO’s mission is to provide quality comfort care and support in meeting the medical, emotional, spiritual and psychological needs of patients, families, caregivers, staff and community in a way that affirms life and supports choices in an environment of dignity and respect.