04/06/07 — A faster way to send those get-well wishes

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A faster way to send those get-well wishes

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 6, 2007 1:45 PM

Imagine living far away or being on vacation and learning a loved one had been hospitalized.

You want to check on her, but are unsure about the best time to call and don't want to wake her if she's resting. Sending a card could take days, and by then she may already be home.

Technology to the rescue.

With more and more people having access to computers and e-mails replacing the art of letter writing, Wayne Memorial Hospital now offers a way to reach out to a friend or relative during a hospital stay.

Wayne Memorial's advertising slogan in recent years has been "Always in Touch." Now, through E-greetings, there is a quick and simple way to be in contact with patients.

Introduced on the hospital's Web site two weeks ago, Cheryl Braswell, administrative assistant with volunteer services, said one of the first e-mails received came from out of the country.

A woman in Guam was able to send a message to her grandmother at the hospital.

"It surprised us," she said. "The granddaughter dropped her a line, telling her she was thinking of her. They hadn't spoken in some time."

On another occasion, a patient wasn't up to reading the note delivered to her, so a volunteer read it to her.

"She was elated," Ms. Braswell said.

Family and friends play an important part in a patient's healing process, said Amy Cain, director of public relations. Short of paying a visit, ensuring that the mail does go through is just another service health care workers can provide, she said.

It used to be that hospital admissions and discharges were public knowledge, often published in the local newspaper. With privacy laws changing, health care workers are not allowed to release details about patients.

Therefore, patients and their families have to be the ones to share such information, Ms. Cain said.

"They have to tell somebody -- church, neighbors, whomever, that they're here," she said.

Many patients may have relatives that live elsewhere.

"And not just from family," Ms. Braswell noted. "It's co-workers, friends, everybody who might want to know when somebody's in the hospital."

Over the years, volunteer services has sorted an abundance of mail sent in for patients, she said. But these days, hospital stays are shorter or procedures are considered outpatient services. Too often, Ms. Braswell said, by the time a card or letter arrives, the person has already been discharged.

"We return just about as much mail as we get," she said. It must be forwarded to the person's home, which delays receipt even further.

Through E-greetings, messages can be sent any time, night or day. It also bypasses protocol -- whether the patient has just delivered a baby, is recovering from surgery, or is unable to have visitors, well-wishes can be conveyed, said Ms. Braswell, who has recently delivered a spate of e-mails to a woman whose husband is intensive care.

E-mails received by 2 p.m. can be delivered the same day. The only exception is on weekends, when there is no volunteer staff on hand.

But it's still faster than taking a chance on "snail mail," said Donna Archer, director of volunteer services.

"Even if it's sent on a Friday, it's still quicker than dropping it in the mail," she said. "We have to change our way of thinking -- by the time you buy a card, buy a stamp, this is quicker."

The system also works for those who struggle with going to the hospital, but want to be supportive of loved ones there.

"This is a way to connect with them and let them know (that) I'm thinking of you," Mrs. Archer said.

Hospital officials are encouraging the public to take advantage of the free service, which is also fairly simple. A link is provided on the hospital's Web site, www.waynehealth.org.

Only three pieces of information are required -- patient's name, sender's name and a space for a message.

"Sometimes people think e-mail is so impersonal, but we have people hand-deliver them," Ms. Cain said. "It's a quick and easy way to show someone you care."