Cardiac MonitorBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston has launched the MyICU app in its intensive care units to enhance communication with their sickest patients and those patients’ families.

When a patient is admitted to an intensive care unit, it carries with it some pretty scary connotations for patients and their families. And having been on the family side of the coin, it’s in that moment that you really need to connect with the people caring for your loved one and understand whats going on in their heads.

Yet, as clinicians, we have a tendency to reduce them to the tubes coming out of them and the data being collected – blood work, vital signs, hemodynamic measurements, urine output, and so on. Worse yet, it can be hard to find time to sit down, get to know them, and really help these patients and their families understand what is going on.

Even over the course of my training, there’s been a growing focus on changing the way we practice medicine in the ICU. A team of clinicians, social workers, and patient advocates at BIDMC are using an iPad app called MyICU to try to help bridge this communication gap as well.


The initial framework for MyICU was developed after conducting 2,600 surveys of stakeholders including patients, families, and clinicians. The app was then developed over a year of iterative design work.

Each ICU room will have an iPad with MyICU. Through the app, patients and their families can access a variety of resources including bios of the people on their care team, and learn more about typical procedures and equipment used in the ICU. They can also keep up with the plan of care with daily lists of procedures & tests being planned, an area to note down questions, and information on the medical condition being dealt with.

In addition, they can help their care team get to know the patient better by entering information in the “Get to Know Me” section where they can share the patient’s story as well as pictures of the patient before they got sick. That could be really powerful in helping remind clinicians that they are dealing with a real person and not a blood pressure, CVP, heart rate, PCO2, and so on.

As Senior Director of Social Work and Patient and Family Engagement Barbara Sarnoff Lee, LICSW put it, “We want to know who our patients are when they’re healthy, what they look like, what kinds of things they like to do. When we know more about the person before they were sick, it helps us as caregivers be in better sync with the patient’s and family’s goals for care.”