Kaiser Permanente hospital used video call to tell patient he was dying

A patient's family was upset to learn over video that their grandfather was dying at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fremont, Calif., according to a report from local Fox affiliate KTVU.

A nurse told the patient, 79-year-old Ernest Quintana, and his granddaughter, Annalisia Wilharm, a physician would make rounds. Instead, a physician called in and communicated over video with Mr. Quintana. The physician told Mr. Quintana that his lungs were failing and that he "might not make it home."

Ms. Wilharm told KTVU the news was especially devastating when delivered via video technology. Mr. Quintana had trouble hearing the physician and Ms. Wilharm had to repeat the news, according to the report.  

Michelle Gaskill-Hames, senior vice president and area manager of Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County, provided Becker's with the following written statement:

"On behalf of Kaiser Permanente and our caregivers in Fremont, we offer our sincere condolences. It is always deeply painful to lose a beloved family member and friend. While we cannot comment on specifics of an individual's medical care due to privacy laws, we take this very seriously and have reached out to the family to discuss their concerns.

In every aspect of our care, and especially when communicating difficult information, we do so with compassion in a personal manner. The use of the term 'robot' is inaccurate and inappropriate. This secure video technology is a live conversation with a physician using tele-video technology, and always with a nurse or other physician in the room to explain the purpose and function of the technology. It does not, and did not, replace ongoing in-person evaluations and conversations with a patient and family members. The technology allows a small hospital to have additional specialists such as a board-certified critical care physician available 24/7, enhancing the care provided and bringing additional consultative expertise to the bedside. 

This is a highly unusual circumstance. We regret falling short in meeting the patient's and family's expectations in this situation and we will use this as an opportunity to review how to improve patient experience with tele-video capabilities."

Editor's Note: This story was updated March 8 at 2:30 p.m. CST to include an updated statement from Kaiser Permanente and update Ms. Gaskill-Hames' title. An earlier version of this story inaccurately used the term "robot" to describe the device used to video call the patient. We regret this error.


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