Our Story

Covid Virtual Tools is a secure, simple system that allows patients and staff communicate securely via tablets and smartphones


The Loneliness of Covid-19

When Covid patients arrive at the hospital, they’re immediately placed in isolation. Only essential staff wearing full protective equipment can enter the room. 

This is what makes the Covid environment so challenging and so different from normal hospital care: patients are in full isolation. Visitors are not allowed, so patients are by themselves; extremely sick, scared, and lonely. Every entry into a Covid-positive room risks exposing the care worker to infection. So each time someone needs to communicate, be it patient or staff, precious protective equipment is used up. 

This begs the question: how to help patients feel less lonely and scared? How to improve patient-staff communication without risking contagion and using up vital protective equipment? The solution needs to be easy to use. Affordable. Maintain patient confidentiality. And most importantly, it needs to happen now.

The Solution

A small group at Royal Columbian Hospital came up with a creative solution: provide nurses and patients with low-cost tablets installed with Signal, a secure messaging app. The devices would connect to the hospital’s public wi-fi. They were pre-programmed to allow nurses to connect directly with patients and to help with privacy, conversations auto-deleted after 30 minutes. Essentially they were video-enabled walkie-talkies.

Patients using ‘Covid Virtual Tools’ felt immediately more supported. That question that they didn’t feel was important enough to warrant staff donning full protective gear – now they felt comfortable asking via their tablet. And care workers had more time to support patients from the safety of their stations. As a wonderful bonus, patients who didn’t have their own smartphone could communicate with their friends and family. Having the Covid Virtual Tools made an immediate impact on their mental wellbeing and made their stay much more positive.

The system worked so well that the team started thinking about how to make it available to more hospitals. But how to keep the system simple, affordable, effective, and rapidly get to where it’s needed most?

And so ‘Covid Virtual Tools’ Was Created

‘Covid Virtual Tools’ is in service at Royal Columbian Hospital in Vancouver, Canada. Our goal is to expand this project to make this system easily accessible to all hospitals in need during Covid-19.

This system ticks all of the boxes:

  • Free for hospitals
  • Easy to use by health care workers and patients alike
  • Fast turnaround time from sourcing tablets to hospital delivery
  • Can be done anywhere, for any hospital in crisis, by small, local teams

Our story is evolving as this pandemic continues.