Pinoy speech pathologists develop 'communication boards' for intubated COVID-19 patients

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2020 11:36 PM

A medical worker in protective gear (R) tends to a patient on March 24, 2020 at the new COVID 3 level intensive care unit for coronavirus COVID-19 cases at the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome, during the country's lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alberto Pizzolo, AFP

MANILA — A group of Filipino speech pathologists launched on Sunday a "communication board" to aid healthcare workers in communicating with COVID-19-stricken patients unable to speak due to intubation or other escalated respiratory support.

"Patients who are unable to communicate cannot effectively participate in medical decision-making and may not effectively communicate their needs and symptoms. This could greatly impact on their care," the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP) said in a statement.

The communication kit was developed by PASP's Augmentative and Alternative Communication Special Interest Group.

Speech pathology is a branch of rehabilitation concerned with individuals who may have articulation, hearing, voice, fluency, swallowing difficulties and language disorders.


hotos courtesy of Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists
hotos courtesy of Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists
hotos courtesy of Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists

There are 9 visual materials included in the kit, among them are pain scales and boards that ask questions regarding general needs, medical needs, and personal needs.

The communication kit, available in both English and Filipino languages, is free and accessible in a Google drive managed by PASP.

Healthcare providers, especially those attending to COVID-19 patients, are encouraged to use the communication device.

"Some hospitals in the Philippines possess tools that alleviate these communication barriers in acute care settings, but many other hospitals — including those in the provinces — may lack these tools," PASP said.


According to anesthesiologist Nylene Arizala of Capitol Medical Center, the visual materials developed by PASP are "very useful."

"When a patient is put on a ventilator, definitely he/she cannot verbalize anymore. What he/she can do is write in a piece of paper or slate board... That is a very helpful visual aid to patients who can’t verbalize," Arizala told ABS-CBN News.

Arizala shared that she once attended to a person under investigation (PUI) for COVID-019, who eventually turned out positive for the pathogen.

"Madalas (Often) we are called to do the intubations to PUIs. Almost all of intubations are being done by anesthesiologists and sometimes we get called 2 to 3 times a day to do intubation either in ICU or ER," Arizala said.

However, the anesthesiologist warned of the limitations of such visual aid, since the intubation procedure more or less requires patients to be sedated.

"Most of our patients na naka-intubate are sedated kaya ang chart na 'yan is helpful only to awake and stable patients. 'Yung iba kasing patient nag-struggle kaya sini-sedate or pinapatulog," she said.

As of Sunday, the Philippines has recorded 1,418 COVID-19 cases, 71 of whom died and 42 have recovered, according to the Department of Health.