Connecting loved ones: building the NHS Book a virtual visit service in 48 hours

The world sure moves fast when it needs to!

On Tuesday evening I received an introduction to Sonia Patel, Joint CIO of both London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust and London North West University Healthcare Trust & The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and future CIO of NHS nationally. Sonia had put out a tweet that evening requesting help from SME tech companies to build an app in 24-48 hours.

A reply from Sonia woke me at 05:30 on Wednesday morning and we spoke shortly after that. By 09:00 we had a full team allocated to a 48 hour hackathon to build a digital service that enables hospital staff to book and facility virtual visits from loved ones to patients via video call.

By Friday morning we had a working but certainly not polished digital service. Our team of seven, including delivery and technology staff as well as service design help from our partner Difrent had worked into the night to get this turned around so fast.

The desired outcome of the service is to facilitate the booking and organising of video calls between patients and loved ones so that they may feel connected in a time where they are unable to be physically. This is especially relevant now with social distancing measures but we hope that this service can continue to provide value in the future too with personal device restrictions on wards. 

The simple digital service enables ward staff to book in calls which we hope will reduce the burden on staff having to do this manually and reduce the number of calls to wards from loved ones. From the loved ones perspective they receive an SMS stating when their virtual visit is booked for and receive a unique link to join the call when the ward is ready.

The way we’ve built the service effectively means it can back onto any video service. For now we’ve integrated both with open source video call software Jitsi and also with a SaaS product called Whereby. In the future we could facilitate Zoom, Google Meet and Duo, along with others.

We are releasing the service as open source and are looking into longer term plans on how the service can be run and maintained. Get in touch if you have any ideas!

We are currently testing the service on wards in Sonia’s hospitals. We hope to begin scaling out the solution to more wards as soon as possible. We’ve also been contacted by many other trusts and we will be working with them as well as NHSX and NHS Digital to ensure this service can have as wide and as positive impact as possible.

We’d like to thank Sonia and especially her staff who are enabling us to move so fast and deploy this much needed service.

We love what we do and try to help the public sector build and improve software. If you are interested in other projects we have worked on, please see our GovWifi Case Study or our Hackney Council API Case Study.

If you’d like to find out more about the service please contact us at nhs-virtual-visit-enquiries@madetech.com.

About the Author
Luke Morton
Chief Technology Officer at Made Tech. Talk to me about delivering value through digital and technology, how inclusion and feminism can address a digital skills shortage, and on creating mentoring and coaching cultures.
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