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Connecting loved ones in a crisis

UITS donates iPads to IU Health and area senior living communities to help families communicate in this time of visitor restrictions

By Julie Songer

Several Bloomington area seniors are more connected to family and friends during the COVID-19 crisis thanks to a recent effort by UITS. Surplus iPads have been delivered to IU Health and area senior living communities, enabling grateful patients and elderly residents to videoconference with loved ones.

Happy 100!
Happy 100!

CELEBRATING A NEW CENTENARIAN. Autumn Hills resident Marjorie Woods celebrates her 100th birthday with friends and family via Zoom with assistance from the UITS iPad and Autumn Hills staffer HD Smith.

The idea for the iPad donation came about after Henry Gabriel, associate director of Finance, UITS, read a COVID-19 article about Italy.

“The hospitals were overwhelmed, and people were dying without the opportunity to communicate with family and friends. An association of small local businesses in Brescia, Italy, started collecting tablets and redistributing them to the hospitals and assisted living facilities, so I wondered if that was a possibility here,” said Gabriel. “We started an effort to identify surplus devices that could be used to connect area seniors and hospital patients with family and friends via videoconferencing.”

It is amazing to watch our patients connect with loved ones whom they have not been able to see for days or even weeks depending on the situation. It truly changes our approach to care.

Lisa Johnson, director of Experience Design Application, IU Health South Central Region

After conducting a thorough inventory of IU equipment needed for productive remote work and study, UITS identified iPads capable of videoconferencing but unsuitable for current work and study demands. “These devices were collecting dust because they were too outdated to be used by IU faculty, staff, and students. On the other hand, the iPads we donated are providing much-needed communication between isolated and lonely seniors and patients and their families,” said Joe Husk, Executive and Internal Technology Support group manager.

“We review each of the devices,” said Husk, “and we make sure they work, especially the microphone and camera.” Preparing the iPads for donation requires several steps, including erasing all content and verifying Zoom and FaceTime usability. As the last step, all iPads are cleaned and sanitized.

Henry Gabriel
Henry Gabriel

Henry Gabriel, UITS associate director of finance, read about a device donation project in Italy and was inspired to start a similar project with outdated UITS devices.

IU Health Bloomington Hospital received several devices, and they have really made a difference, according to Lisa Johnson, director of Experience Design Application at IU Health South Central Region. “These iPads are allowing us to connect patients with their families during this time of visitor restrictions. It is amazing to watch our patients connect with loved ones whom they have not been able to see for days or even weeks depending on the situation. It truly changes our approach to care,” said Johnson.

Joe Husk
Joe Husk

Joe Husk, EITS group manager, and his team prepare the iPads for donation, erasing previous content, making sure the microphones and cameras work, verifying Zoom and FaceTime usability and sanitizing the devices.

At Autumn Hills Assisted Living, the iPad donation helped seniors see and hear better. “So many of our patients have vision problems, and we were using our tiny phone screens. The bigger screen helped our patients see their families better. Also, we plugged the earphones in so now they can hear better too. Having the iPad has been wonderful,” said Jackie Routt, administrator, Autumn Hills.

Additional facilities that received the iPads were: Brookdale Senior Living and Hearthstone Health Campus. As more devices become available, UITS will continue to make them available to area senior facilities.