Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Lessons From a Zoom Thanksgiving Applied to Patient Care


Zoom made it possible for me to connect with many friends and family for Thanksgiving. Patient video visits that include family members from far away may enhance goals of care discussions.

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I changed our holiday plans week by week as news of rising COVID-19 cases rose across the globe. We very much wanted to visit our sister who had survived COVID-19, and our nephew, born during the pandemic, whom we’ve never met. However, traveling this holiday wasn’t responsible. We couldn’t put our family, our community, or ourselves at risk. Instead, we decided to host our first Zoom Thanksgiving party with our family and closest friends.


Folks could come and go as they pleased. They could eat, drink, or do neither while on video. They could multitask while on video, like play with their children or meal prep. We created a five-hour window to accommodate guests joining from across the country, from California to Texas to Connecticut. Afterward, we all felt connected and surprised at how much we enjoyed this physically distanced, but not socially distanced holiday.


Here are 3 lessons from our Zoom Thanksgiving and how they can be applied to Zoom family meetings for patient care:


1. Change how you host.

When hosting in-person parties, the hosting responsibilities include attending to the logistics of the party, such as serving food and drinks, and ensuring guests are comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. This means I may not engage in deep conversations and may even miss talking to some individuals completely. Over Zoom, my hosting responsibilities were limited to making sure each guest was engaged in our conversation. When hosting a patient family meeting, watch participant’s body language to check that everyone is engaged in the conversation. Look for signs that they may need more support and address questions toward or away from them as needed.


2. Expand your guest list.

When organizing a patient family meeting, invite your patients’ caregivers and family members from far and wide. Keep in mind that Zoom may not be feasible for some individuals, so remain flexible to convert last minute to a phone call.


3. Enjoy the setting.

Our guests, comfortable in their home environment, relaxed clothes, and the freedom to come and go as they pleased, were more likely to speak freely and remain engaged for a longer period of time. Hopefully you’ll notice this during your patient family meeting as well.


In the pandemic, families have been separated when their loved one is in the hospital. The patient may miss their home and Zoom may give them a glimpse of their familiar environment. It may remind them of what’s important to them and thus help to guide their goals of care. Zoom may allow the healthcare team to see a different side of their patient, with a glimpse into their home life.