Family perspectives on facilitators and barriers to the set up and conduct of virtual visiting in intensive care during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative interview study
Objective: To gain perspectives from family members about barriers and facilitators to virtual visit set up and conduct across intensive care unit settings in the United Kingdom to inform understanding of best practices. Methods: We conducted a qualitative descriptive study recruiting a purposive sample of family members of adult intensive care unit patients experiencing virtual visiting during Jan to May 2021 of the COVID-19 pandemic. We used semi-structured qualitative interviews and a standard Thematic Analysis approach. Results: We recruited 41 family-member participants from 16 hospitals in the United Kingdom. Facilitators to successful virtual visit set-up were preparation of the family, negotiating a preferred time, and easy-to-use technology. Facilitators to successful conduct were intensive care unit team member presence; enabling family involvement in care; inclusivity, accessibility, and flexibility; and having a sense of control. Barriers that created distress or conflict included restrictive virtual visiting practices; raising expectations then failing to meet them; lack of virtual visit pre-planning; and failing to prepare the patient. Barriers to visit conduct were incorrect camera positioning, insufficient technical and staff resources, issues with three-way connectivity, and lack of call closure. Recommendations included emotional self-preparation, increased technology availability, and preparing conversation topics. Conclusion: These data may guide virtual visiting practices during the ongoing pandemic but also to continue virtual visiting outside of pandemic conditions. This will benefit family members suffering from ill health, living at a distance, unable to afford travel, and those with work and care commitments, thereby reducing inequities of access and promoting family-centered care.