Improving in-hospital experience ICU

Have speaking valves reduced over-medicating in ICU?

Millions of patients are admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) each year, many of whom require a machine to help them breathe. Some patients also require the discomfort of a tracheotomy to assist breathing. Some patients are fortunate that speaking valves can be used with the tracheotomy to allow communication, which has many benefits.

Toni Kinneally’s research aims to fully understand the speaking valve’s effect on the use of medication on these patients. Toni recognises a real need to improve the rate at which these patients recover, and reduce the side effects that are related to sedation or heavy medication.

The effect of the speaking valve in critically ill patients has the potential to substantially reduce the amount of drugs administered. In addition, improved communication through these speaking valves dramatically benefits patients and their loved ones.

Medications used in ICU are often disorientating, addictive and can cause secondary complications due to their strength. In 2014 speaking valves were introduced to the ICU at The Prince Charles Hospital, and Toni believes that these speaking valves have helped to reduce the number of strong medications that ICU patients receive – giving these people a better quality of life while waiting to get better.

She is analysing data before and after speaking valves were introduced, to try and show that these simple, cheap devices have helped to reduce the number of medications given to patients. If Toni can show the positive influence of speaking valves, she can help to bring this technology to hospitals around Australia and the world.

These research findings could assist patients return to normal activities sooner, participate better in rehabilitation and reduce the prevalence of post-intensive care syndrome – an all too common condition normally characterised by muscle weakness, brain dysfunction or mental health problems.