One of the most heart-breaking issues of the current crisis caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus in the UK is the fact that hospitals can no longer allow visitors into hospitals. That means that thousands of seriously ill people will be unable to have a visitor for an indeterminate length of time. Doctors, nurses and support staff in hospitals around the UK are working tirelessly to care for all patients, but nothing quite compares to spending time with loved ones.

Here is a story of how Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) turned to innovative technology companies to find a solution to one of the most fundamental of human needs, the need to be with the ones you love.

Sunday 22nd March (Mothering Sunday) David Walliker, Chief Digital and Partnerships Officer from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) puts out a call to Steve Killick, Product Manager for WiFi SPARK. Walliker is desperate to find a solution to help families to stay in touch with loved ones.

Killick responds immediately saying ‘leave it with me, I will find you a solution.’ There began a flurry of phone calls, brainstorming, favours and fast work, as Walliker needed a solution as soon as possible to help his patients.

Monday 23rd March, Killick calls Walliker and says ‘we have a solution for you’. Killick had mobilised, not only the resources of WiFi SPARK but also the services of a host of other technology solutions suppliers to create a complete solution to OUH.

Monday 29th March, in a week, WiFi SPARK delivers a fully functional video calling solution to OUH. The solution consists of 246 Samsung tablets that are preloaded with the SPARK® Media platform to enable inpatients to video call friends and family. The tablets will be securely loaned to patients to use for keeping in touch with loved ones and also for entertainment and distraction. The devices will be locked down using SPARK® Media, using only the list of predefined apps required to allow patients to undertake video calls and be entertained by accessing digital magazines.

The key features of this solution include:

  • Fully locked-down tablet- only access what is allowed (video calling, games, entertainment)
  • A secure device that can be locked to any existing food table or a bedside cabinet
  • Video calling via Apps like; Skype, Messenger, or Hangouts
  • Video calling via Visionable: Interact (no account, no download required for call receiver)
  • Wall-gardened web links
  • Link to Hospital Radio
  • Access to streaming media sites such as iPlayer, Netflix, PRIME etc.
  • Access to the full SPARK® Media Entertainment services including SPARK® Media: Print which enables access to digital magazines and newspapers.

Killick said ‘The best alternative to physically being with loved ones is being able to see and hear them, so video calling was a must for this solution. I am fortunate to know a lot of very clever and influential people in the industry so I was able to engage people very quickly to find a workable solution for OUH. All of the suppliers in this solution, including WiFi SPARK, have taken significant cuts in their margins to be able to offer this to the Trust as affordably as possible.’

Walliker was delighted with the quick response and the excellent solution, he said ‘From concept on the phone with Steve Killick to spec, order, shipped and built all in 6 days. Thanks to WiFi SPARK for helping us, it’ll make a real difference to our patients.’

Matt O’Donovan, founder and CEO of WiFi SPARK commented ‘We are delighted to have been able to focus our team on providing a solution that will help patients who are feeling isolated and lonely to connect with their loved ones. The NHS is doing a stellar job on the front lines of this crisis and I am so pleased that WiFi SPARK can assist in the response.

Killick continued, ‘News travels fast in the NHS and we have had seven more Trusts who have heard about this getting in touch and requesting a similar solution in their hospitals. We will be rolling this out to many more Trusts, including Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in the coming days and weeks.’

WiFi SPARK is the leading provider of patient-access WiFi and digital entertainment to the NHS. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to delivering the video-calling solution described above, they have been working with NHS Trusts to enable them to scale up to meet the additional capacity requirements due to heavy usage of the WiFi service. They have rolled out their SPARK® Media: Print service to many Trusts and have also adapted Trust’s WiFi portals to ensure that the most up-to-date Trust information is available to WiFi users in hospitals.

Join the Community
Get the latest healthtech and digital health news, reports, webinars and offers direct to your inbox.