Portuguese Medical Association's Scientific Journal
Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic caused an abrupt change in the pattern of communication involving patients, family members, and healthcare professionals. This study aimed to evaluate family member satisfaction with intensive care units (ICU) care and communication strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondary objectives included identification of areas requiring improvement, and assessment of the impact of both COVID-19 diagnosis and in-person visits on overall satisfaction.
Material and Methods: A prospective, observational single-center study was conducted among family members of ICU patients admitted between March and September 2020. During this period, ICU visiting policies suffered changes, ranging from full restrictions to eased limitations, which impacted ICU communication procedures and patient contact with family members. Three months after ICU discharge, the designated family members of patients were contacted and invited to fill in a questionnaire that assessed family satisfaction using a Likert response scale.
Results: There was a total of 168 family members contacted (response rate of 57.7%). Most participants were globally satisfied with the care provided by the ICU staff and, apart from communication between nurses and family members, all other questions scored a satisfaction rate above 80%. The study found a statistically significant association between satisfaction and the consistency of clinical information provided and the possibility of having visits (p = 0.046). The odds ratio of being satisfied with information consistency was found to be 0.22 times lower in family members that were able to visit the patient in the ICU during the COVID-19 pandemic [OR = 0.22 (95% CI: 0.054 - 0.896)] compared with families that were unable to presential visit their family member. No statistically significant differences were found in the satisfaction rates between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 admissions.
Conclusion: This is one of the first studies to assess satisfaction among family members of ICU patients during COVID-19 restrictions and the first, as far as we know, performed in the Portuguese population. The overall satisfaction levels were similar to the estimates found in previous studies. A lower degree of satisfaction with information consistency was found in family members who had in-person visits, possibly related with heterogeneity of senior doctors delivering information. COVID-19 diagnosis was not associated with decreased satisfaction.