Health IT, Hospitals, Patient Engagement

Report: Hospital chaplains embracing telemedicine

The Wall Street Journal examined this trend over the weekend.

Here’s a new application of telemedicine: chaplain services both in and outside of hospitals. It’s a symptom of the move away from inpatient care, health systems’ desire to save money and a continued need for spiritual support even among those who don’t actively practice a religion.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal examined this trend. Some hospitals are turning to consumer video chat services like Skype and FaceTime, while others have called on dedicated service providers. Often, phone or e-mail serves as the telehealth conduit.

“Most of the ministry that chaplains do is face to face, but there are certainly times when that’s not possible, due to distance or incarceration or a contagious disease, and technology is opening up doors for us,” Margaret Atkinson, president-elect of the Association of Professional Chaplains, was quoted as saying.

The Journal dedicated most of the story to Chat With a Chaplain, a year-old service from HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, a nonprofit that has been around since 1951.

According to the story, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network has inked deals with 26 health systems nationwide in the last six months, and also offers free services to individuals. The Chat With a Chaplain service reportedly has connected chaplains to patients, family members and caregivers nearly 5,000 times since launching.

“Hospitals may have three chaplains covering 800 beds,” HCCN President and CEO told the Journal. “Many of them would like to offer more services, but there are limitations.”

Plus, more than a few people in rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, hospices and home care are looking for spiritual connections.

“Wherever chaplains are, at the bedside or the other end of a video camera, it’s about the human connection,” Atkinson said. “That’s what we are there for.”

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