How physicians are helping patients vote from their hospital beds: 4 notes

Physicians nationwide are ramping up efforts to help patients confined to hospital beds cast their votes during the midterm election Nov. 6.

Here are four things to know:

1. Physicians, nurses and volunteers at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia, teamed up on an initiative called "Penn Votes Project," which aims to help patients vote despite their hospitalization, according to The Washington Post, which cites a report by the Associated Press.

2. The UPenn hospitals' initiative aims to help patients circumvent the arduous process of voting while hospitalized. In Pennsylvania, the patient would need to apply for an emergency absentee ballot, have a physician sign off on the application and have the application notarized by city hall. Once approved, the patient's ballot must be taken back to the hospital and returned to city hall by the deadline on Election Day for the vote to be counted.

3. After receiving complaints from her patients about their inability to vote during the 2016 election, Kelly Wong, MD, an emergency medicine resident at the Providence, R.I.-based Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and colleagues at other hospitals launched, a website patients can use to find out the options available to them, NBC News reports.

"I didn't know patients could vote — and what I'm learning is that many healthcare providers also don't know that there are processes in place to help patients vote," Dr. Wong told NBC News, adding that many states have voting procedures similar to Pennsylvania's for patients.

4. Providers at New York City-based Lenox Hill Hospital — part of New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health — have similarly created a pilot program to help patients cast their ballots. The program's creators said they plan to make it possible for every patient at the hospital to vote by the 2020 election, according to The New York Times.

"In New York City we have a lot of medical institutions and smaller hospitals. … Multiply that by 49 other states and that's a huge population of people who don't have the opportunity to vote because of an unplanned event in their lives," Erin Ainslie Smith, MSN, RN, an assistant nurse manager at Lenox Hill Hospital and co-creater of the pilot program, told The New York Times. "We aren't telling [patients] whom to vote for, or even to vote at all. We just don't want [patients] to lose the opportunity because [they're] unexpectedly in a hospital."

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