Technology firm helps patients stay in contact with loved-ones during COVID-19 lockdown

Oxford trust and WiFi SPARK join forces to create new digital platform enabling patients to video call their families from their hospital beds

One of the most heart-breaking knock-on effects of the current crisis caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus in the UK is the fact that hospitals can no longer allow visitors.

But Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) has 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.

Oxford hospital bosses asked WiFi SPARK to help them link patients in hospital to their families during the COVID-19 lockdown, and within a week the technology firm had put together a digital platform, which is now being rolled out among other UK trusts

On Sunday 22 March, David Walliker, chief digital and partnerships officer from at the trust, put out a call to Steve Killick, product manager at WiFi SPARK, desperate to find a solution to help families to stay in touch with their loved ones during the lockdown.

And Killick responded immediately, promising to find 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.

The following day Killick called to say they had a solution, having called on the services of a host of other technology solutions suppliers to create a complete system.

And, within a week, the company had delivered a fully-functional video calling solution.

It consists of 246 Samsung tablets preloaded with the SPARK Media platform to enable inpatients to video call friends and family and for entertainment.

Key features include:

  • Fully-locked-down, tablet- only access to video calling, games, and 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 and 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.

As well as video conferencing, tablets can also access entertainment such as TV and games

“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.”

Matt O’Donovan, founder and chief executive of WiFi SPARK, added: “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 added: “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.”

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