Safe and secure virtual visiting

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

Although the Life Lines virtual visiting platform was developed due to restrictions on in-person visiting imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person visiting is not feasible for many of our family members outside of pandemic conditions. This could be due to living far away in another town or country, having work and or caregiving commitments that make daily visiting challenging or ill health of the family member.  

Previous studies have identified family members visiting ICU report a decrease in their quality of life due to disruptions to life and work, travel costs and loss of income. ICU in-person visiting policies also restricts who and how many people can visit at one time. This can cause distress for families and friends not being able to see their loved ones when critically ill and especially at the end of lifes.

Therefore Life Lines is working to support virtual visiting as a routinely offered visiting option outside of pandemic conditions for those family members having difficulty visiting in person. This will enables family members all over the world to connect with their relative using our virtual visiting solution on the secure online platform aTouchAway™. 

About aTouchAway™

aTouchAway™ is the technology e-platform, developed by Aetonix, that is loaded onto the Life Lines tablets for use in ICUs. aTouchAway can also be used on any tablet device that is managed by the IT team of the hospital. Each NHS organisation has a digitally secure aTouchAway™ dashboard to enrol patients that require virtual visits. This ensures families have a safe and secure way to stay connected.

About the Life Lines tablets

Life Lines has gifted tablets to ICUs across the UK through major philanthropic gifts along with support from members of the public. These tablets have data plans, device and software support, and aTouchAway™ licences 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 a hospital. This means 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.

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™ when added as a contact for their relative in ICU is via their own unique email address. Therefore, this is at least non-inferior (or superior) to the usual circumstances of in-person visiting in UK ICUs.

Virtual Visiting Best Practices

We would recommend presumed patient consent for emergently intubated and sedated patients as this 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 or written consent from patients for virtual visiting for family and friends unable to visit in-person prior to planned intubation or elective surgery. We provide a letter template for virtual visiting consent prior to elective proceduresdownload planned patient admission form here.

Invited family patient contacts sign an end user licence agreement on registering with Aetonix, the company that provide aTouchaway™. This covers the storage on the AWS cloud of their contact details.

These contact details are permanently deleted from the AWS cloud along with the patient’s name on deletion of a patient from aTouchaway™ by a member of the clinical team on patient discharge from ICU.