We examine the potential legacy of COVID-19 in the realm of tech for good
Charity digital leaders have responded with innovation and dynamism in the wake of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Reinvigorating digital solutions for service delivery and supporter outreach, tech for good efforts have benefited from renewed interest.
Taking a closer look at tech for good efforts in the healthcare sector, we review these new developments and what might be taken forward in a broader context.
The government’s call for 250,000 volunteers across the community to support coronavirus sufferers was met with a thunderous response. Tech for good solutions quickly emerged to help fight the crisis and manage over 750,000 respondents.
Prior to the crisis, GoodSam, an international charity, was already operating mobile, app-based alert systems and dispatching services. When the government called for volunteers to help community members who are self-isolating, GoodSam quickly pivoted its digital service into action. The app now allows volunteers to not only do good for the NHS but also within the local community. Once downloaded, local citizens in need can contact others to assist in grocery shopping, transporting medicines, or simply just for company. For charities operating health, fire, and ambulance services, the app can also access the caller’s mobile phone camera in an emergency situation, improving service delivery ahead of the arrival of help.
Likely to trend onwards, GoodSam’s quick, innovative pivot to crowdsourcing could potentially be a model for other charities to emulate.
The pandemic has brought into focus just how important tech for good is at supporting not only charities but their beneficiaries. Tech for good efforts by charities have helped bring patients and doctors closer together, and we expect, that post-pandemic, these relationships will continue to align.
Aiming to help young arthritis sufferers, Versus Arthritis launched a mobile phone app to support young people between the ages of 13-25. The charity’s app helps users keep track of their symptoms like an electronic diary. For healthcare professionals unable to attend patients who are self-isolating, tracking symptoms is important to prescribing the right care.
“It has huge potential to enhance communication between young people and health professionals, allowing us to better understand the impact arthritis is having on the young person’s life and then to treat them more effectively. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the app has even greater potential. It can be difficult to assess young people on the phone so using their app summaries as a prompt or by sharing on email beforehand, it will really help these phone consultations,” said Dr Janet McDonagh, a paediatric and adolescent rheumatologist at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
New tech for good partnerships have formed between healthcare workers, charities, and private tech developers. Looking ahead, we can expect to see more digital collaborations between charities and other service providers.
During the past few months, the Hospify mobile phone app has been expanding its service base to NHS charities, trusts, and healthcare professionals. Tackling the problem of confidentiality and security, Hospify developed a secure-message aggregator for messages coming in from sources like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Messenger, which are often not company or charity approved. By securing messages from other sources, the app allows doctors, nurses, patients, pharmacists, dentists, and patients to connect in online groups and share information (including pictures) without jeopardising confidentiality. The app is now servicing over 150 hospitals and has been vetted by the NHS as one of its approved apps.
Coronavirus took the world by surprise, and researchers are still scrambling to find a cure. Funded by charities and partners NHS Digital, Open Data Institute Leeds and Beautiful Information, the #OpenDataSavesLives hackathon threw open the doors for anyone and everyone to participate in making sense of big data. Over 50 participants, including the British Red Cross, shared standardised, integrated information to get a broader picture of cities.
Paul Connell, founder of Open Data Institute Leeds said: “#OpenDataSavesLives can bring people together to respond to the situation we are all facing. We want to encourage and empower people to work ‘in the open’, talk about your work, ask for help, share your success on our open doc. We can then link up the incredible work being done, remove barriers and speed up the response.”
Looking ahead thematically, the sharing of big data has the potential to help charities unlock information barriers to solve big issues, including poverty, homelessness, and many others. By improving transparency and better information, tech for good efforts can address and help charities deliver their missions.