Safe and secure virtual visiting

Life Lines provides families, loved ones and their clinical teams with a secure environment to connect and communicate. Our platform ensures privacy and safety for patients and their family.

About aTouchAway™

aTouchAway™ is the technology platform, developed by Aetonix, that is loaded onto the tablets for use in ICUs.

The platform is typically used by clinical teams to support patients with chronic conditions living at home. Working with Aetonix’s CEO, the platform Prof Rose and Dr Meyer modified aTouchaway™ to enable a secure communication strategy linking critical care teams to families of critically ill patients.

aTouchAway™ is a password-protected App. Each NHS organisation is provided with a digitally secure dashboard to which they enrol those patients that require virtual family communication. This ensures families have a safe and secure way to stay connected.

About the tablet devices

The tablets provided to each of ICU are gifted by Life Lines, made possible through major philanthropic gifts along with support from members of the public. Data plans, device and software support, and App licences on the devices have been funded for 12 months via Life Lines. Each tablet is 4G enabled with an unlimited data plan and WiFi compatibility.

Tablet configuration and performance is centrally managed via BT, utilising Android Enterprise. The solution is designed to be secure and flexible to meet the evolving needs within the hospital. This means that additional apps can be automatically added, updates to existing apps are centrally controlled and the tablet's location can be tracked remotely, enabling devices to be disabled if they leave hospital premises.

We anticipate that devices will be dedicated to and not leave contaminated areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About national guidance on restricted access and supporting families through video calling

The Clinical guide for the management of critical care patients during the coronavirus pandemic (NHS England & Improvement, 16 March) states that access should be restricted to critical care areas for non-essential staff and any families or friends. The guidance advises teams to “discuss using mobile devices and video-calling with the local Caldicott Guardian, particularly on compassionate grounds during the end-of-life processes”

Caldicott Guardian, Information Governance and Trust Data Protection Officer approval for use of devices and ATouchAwayTM application has been granted at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. This has been reflected nationally via the UK Caldicott Guardian Council and in guidance from NHSX, which includes relevant advice about Mobile Messaging and video conferencing with specific approval of commercial and off-the-shelf applications.

About security, privacy and information governance

aTouchAway™ is a digitally secure platform hosted on a dedicated UK server. The only patient data that is stored is the patient’s name; this is permanently removed when the patient is discharged from hospital. The tablets are all PIN and password protected.

Family authentication in aTouchAway™ to add them as a contact for their loved one in ICU is via their own unique email address, therefore at least non-inferior (or superior) to the usual circumstances of in-person visiting on UK critical care units.

Presumed patient consent for intubated and sedated patients mirrors usual circumstances of in-person visiting in UK ICUs. Consent for video calling is presumed unless a clear indication to the contrary is indicated in prior wishes or conversations with family.

A best practice point is to seek verbal consent for virtual visiting from patients prior to planned intubation if the opportunity arises, although we recognise this is often not possible.

Invited family contacts sign an end user licence agreement on registering with Aetonix, the company that developed aTouchaway™ which covers the storage of their contact details. These contact details are permanently deleted along with the patient name on deletion of a patient from aTouchaway™.

Guidance for call etiquette including: optional use of “verbal” patient specific password; verifying who is virtually present on the call (including children/vulnerable); avoiding showing other patients or background information on the video is provided.

We recommend best practice is to document in the patient’s medical record use of audio or video call including persons/time/date and include the phrase “linked to COVID-19 response”.

No video or audio content is recorded using aTouchaway™. It is important to advise family members to not use their own personal devices to take screengrabs or video record the virtual family visit.