As much of pandemic life has been held virtually, the two main healthcare systems in the Quad Cities offer people a way to send cards to their loved ones in the hospital — for free over the Internet.

Though it’s custom-made for these COVID times, both Genesis Health System and UnityPoint Health– Trinity have offered e-card options (in many designs) for years. According to Trinity, not many people even know they exist.

An example of a Genesis e-card for patients.

“We have had them for years, so not COVID-related but a good idea during COVID with visitor restrictions,” Genesis spokesman Craig Cooper said recently. “Family and friends can send a card instead of a personal visit.”

Genesis Health System has two medical centers in Davenport, as well as locations in Aledo, DeWitt, Silvis and Maquoketa.

Effective Jan. 7, 2022, Genesis visitor restrictions at their medical centers changed to reflect high COVID-19 infection rates in our community. Their policies are:

  • All visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the facility entrance. Anyone who fails the screening will not be allowed into the facility.
  • Visitors must be at least 14 years of age.
  • All visitors must wear a mask at all times in the facility.
  • COVID-19 positive or suspected patients may not have visitors unless they are deemed comfort care or deemed COVID recovered by their attending physician.
  • Each patient may have two visitors per day during visiting hours.
  • The same visitor may leave and return in the same day and will be screened each time they enter the facility.

At Trinity, masks must be worn by everyone age 2 and up. There have been no changes in visitor policy at Trinity for about a year. As of Monday, Trinity hospitals had 56 COVID patients, with 12 in the ICUs. Over the past year, 89 percent of COVID inpatients at Trinity have been unvaccinated.

UnityPoint Health — Trinity has campuses in Rock Island, Moline and Bettendorf.

UnityPoint Health – Trinity provides the following visitor guidelines for non-COVID positive and COVID positive patients. These guidelines adjust visitor access during the pandemic according to the needs of the care setting and the level of community spread.

The community is encouraged to continue practicing social distancing, masking, and performing frequent hand hygiene to reduce the spread of COVID-19. All Trinity visitors must: 

  • be symptom-free (no symptoms of respiratory infection including fever, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath.
  • have not recently tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • have not been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient in the past 14 days.
  • be 12 years of age or older to visit patients in the hospital.

Stacy Johnson, volunteer coordinator for UnityPoint Health – Trinity Volunteer Services, oversees 300 people for the Bettendorf, Moline and Rock Island campuses, who distribute printed e-cards to patients.

Though it’s been available for 15 years, there’s definitely been an uptick in use of e-cards since March 2020 and the pandemic, she said Monday.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to stay in touch with their loved ones,” Johnson said. “It’s free; you just need to have computer access.”

Whatever you type on the site is what gets printed out on the card, and volunteers deliver the cards. The most popular card designs are ones reflecting hugs, she said.

Trinity’s most popular card design is the hug.

Visitors are still limited to two a day, “and this is where the cards play such an important role – being able to reach out when you’re not one of those two visitors,” Johnson said.

Online, you can also order gifts and flowers (that are made by volunteers), she said. “It’s a very quick turnaround,” she said, noting most gifts and cards come from out of state.

“It just means so much”

“From the patient’s perspective, it just means so much. You can see it on their faces,” Johnson said. “When a card is delivered, most of them didn’t know this was a program, so they’re super excited to get the card, to let them know their family is thinking of them.

Stacy Johnson is volunteer coordinator for UnityPoint Health — Trinity.

“From the sender’s perspective, I know first-hand how it makes you feel – that you’re staying connected, playing some small part in their recovery,” she said.

A few years ago, she had a friend out of state in the hospital with a heart issue; Johnson looked online to see if they offered e-cards, and they did. “It was a pretty grave situation, but he since recovered. I looked through the card designs, which were serious, but one had a monkey on it, which I knew would make him smile,” Johnson said. “Humor is the best medicine.”

E-cards were popular over the Christmas season, she noted. “It also fluctuates if there’s a baby boom, with cards for the new baby,” Johnson said.

Trinity will have special Valentine’s cards in February to celebrate caregivers, spokeswoman Jamie Mullin said. There’s a section on the website to thank a caregiver.

Trinity also has e-cards to thank its caregivers.

“It’s a way for us to pause and show some appreciation, and we’re extending that externally this year, so that caregivers can get some extra love,” she said of Trinity honoring its staff. “They’ve been getting beat up a little bit – working long hours; they’ve been dealing with a lot of stress.”

“We’re asking people to think not only about health care workers, but others who are caring for people at home who are sick; for children who are on quarantine,” Mullin said. “Like, who could not use a little more love and joy in the world right now?”

It only takes minutes from when someone orders a card to when a patient gets it, Johnson said. Traditional store-bought cards sent in the mail remain most popular, compared to e-cards, she said.

Many people don’t know it exists

“I don’t know that people are as aware of this program,” she said of e-cards. “I just don’t know it’s on anybody’s radar. They know they’re loved one is here and think, ‘I have to go buy a card.’ There are definitely return customers – like church congregations, you can tell when they’ve announced that in church and I’ll get several from the same parishioners.”

Gifts and cards are vital in helping speed a patient’s recovery, Johnson said.

“When COVID first hit, and we were celebrating every success that left the hospital, we’d have celebrations – and to see those patients leave with their laps overflowing with gifts and cards, that really was heartwarming,” she said.

“Our volunteers play an important role in this, delivering the cards,” she said. On the website, there’s a section on volunteers where you can sign up to help. “We are always looking for wonderful, kind-hearted volunteers. Our numbers are a little low right now.

“I’m not gonna lie – that has to do with going into a hospital during a pandemic,” Johnson said. “But we have all the protocols in place. They follow the same strict standards that we all follow, as staff members.”

Trinity celebrates its healthcare staff and volunteers.

Volunteers are required to be vaccinated against COVID and the flu. Opportunities exist during all times and at all Trinity locations, but the majority of positions occur during hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To send a card to a Trinity patient, click HERE. For a Genesis patient, click HERE.