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CONTACT: TOM MOORE
Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications
8788 John Pappajohn Pavilion
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 356-3945
e-mail: thomas-moore@uiowa.edu

Release: April 3, 2001

NOTE TO EDITORS: Patient and staff members will be available for interviews and to demonstrate the advantages of WebTV technology from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, at the Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Unit on the 7th floor of the John Colloton Pavilion. Please contact Tom Moore at (319) 356-3945 to arrange to cover the event.

WebTV helps UI patients stay connected

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Patients who receive bone marrow transplants at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics can now "stay connected" by using WebTV technology through a special program called Computer Access For Patients in Room Isolation (CAPRI).

A group of UI Hospitals and Clinics staff members began CAPRI to help bone marrow transplant patients communicate more easily with their family and friends. Staff from the Departments of Pediatrics, Nursing, Social Services, Telecommunications and Rehabilitation Therapies are working with the Patients' Library to provide this new service for patients in room isolation. Patients on the Pediatric and Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Units can have a WebTV unit that allows access to the Internet for e-mail and Web browsing.

A WebTV is a small device about the size of a VCR that comes with a portable keyboard. The WebTV devices were donated by the Telemedicine Resource Center, thanks to a contract from the National Library of Medicine that provided WebTVs for patient education. The WebTV hooks up to the existing cable and phone lines in the patient rooms. Funding for the connection fees through 2001 was obtained through Volunteer Services at the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the UI Dance Marathon (pediatric devices only).

Initial response has been positive. Patients say the technology saves them money by reducing long distance phone charges and improves the quality of their lives. Research from Microsoft and WebTV also shows that increasing a patient's social connections has beneficial effects on health.

Bone marrow transplant (BMT) is a therapy used to treat patients with a variety of conditions, most often those with cancer. To prepare for the procedure, patients receive very high doses of chemotherapy and radiation. The chemotherapy and radiation will not only destroy the cancer but also destroy the patient's bone marrow. Bone marrow cells produce the cells that will develop into blood cells, which make up the immune system, carry oxygen throughout the body and prevent bleeding. In order to counteract this result of receiving high-dose chemotherapy and radiation, the patient's bone marrow must be replaced. Bone marrow may be harvested from the patient, frozen and then re-infused after therapy. Sometimes a family member can be found who is matched closely enough to the patient to be able to donate bone marrow, or it may be possible to find a suitably matched donor through an unrelated donor registry. While undergoing BMT, a patient will be very susceptible to infection as they wait for the new marrow to begin growing and providing some immunity. During this time, patients are confined to their rooms. Patients may remain in room isolation for any number of weeks but an average stay is approximately five to seven weeks, which can be a very difficult time for the patients and their families.

There are 24 devices available for patient use; most of the devices are on the adult BMT unit but several are located on the pediatric BMT unit or in the Ronald McDonald House. The goal is to study how Internet access by way of WebTV or a similar device may increase the quality of life of patients in room isolation. Additional funding to provide WebTV or a similar device to all long-term patients throughout the hospital will also be sought, including sources of private funding.

For more information about this project please contact Mindy Egeland, director of the Patients' Library at (319)-354-8908 or e-mail her at mindwell-egeland@uiowa.edu.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.