In a broad group of operational areas, key institutions in our communities such as the NHS are facing a common challenge: how to get the right resources to the right people at the right time.
Whether the resources are care staff, volunteers, or physical goods you face a common set of questions:
How do you integrate disparate suppliers (recruitment agencies, volunteer bodies, private sector manufacturers, venues) into common pools, so you can access the total supply with minimal complexity while still respecting their internal boundaries?
How do you triage for relevance in order to deploy resources effectively (e.g. clinical/non-clinical volunteers; specialist/generalist staff; priority/non-priority goods)
How do you use over-supplies in one area to meet shortages in another?
How do you reduce the human requirements of resource administration to keep services running and reduce overload?
A customisable system that automates common logistical functions in resource management and booking, and applies them to multiple crisis resource settings, so you can consolidate inventories of facilities, people and goods; triage/prioritise their distribution; and provide an adaptable booking interface that allows the resources available to reach the people who need them with the least friction possible.
Speed to market
Because we are building on an existing solution which is already set up to handle millions of transactions; and because we already work with hospitals, health bodies, local governments, private companies and voluntary organisations - this means that once the system is customised for emergency response during this Global Hack, we will be ready to immediately deploy at any scale necessary, from single, smaller organisations such as a care home, to a nation wide and even international roll-out. We will not only have the system primed and ready, but a full team from AWS infrastructure to project managers and support engineers.
We learned that in the UK, the health system was struggling to process the massive influx of volunteers, identifying those with clinical skills who could be trained and certified and then deployed to the front lines. Likewise, so many vulnerable people isolating were struggling to get access to social care, and care homes were struggling with sudden staff shortages and equipment and food shortages. In care homes, symptom tracking and being able to get a picture regionally or nationally would be hugely useful, but currently impossible. Further conversations showed that it wasn't just health systems. Local governments had received so many volunteers and had to get people and goods to neighbourhoods, but everything was fragmented, and you could have one neighbourhood with volunteers unused and on a waiting list while the next one had a shortage of volunteers, or food. So many challenges! The Global Hack slack channels proved these challenges were not UK-specific, but many other countries are grappling with similar issues.
We work for BookingLive.com, a UK-based tech company with an existing enterprise level booking software solution, already being used by hospitals, local authorities, transport systems, health bodies and many more organisations worldwide. Last year we processed over 3 million bookings. In terms of tracking availability, providing booking and admin portals, categorising, prioritising and queueing: these things are transferrable, and are part of the day to day challenges institutions are facing right now. In that sense, our existing booking solution, which is already capable of large scale use in the millions of transactions in hugely varied configurations, gave us Proof of Concept of what we could do if we extended it to emergency resources like volunteers, care staff, medicines and equipment.
The team realised we have a system that could be deployed very rapidly, at scale, and while it could already help with many problems, if we spent time tweaking it and "hacking" it, we might be able to address precisely many of the most urgent logistical challenges.
What it does
1) When 2000 people suddenly volunteer, how do you triage their skills, so you can retrain and certify clinical returners and use other volunteers according to their skills? Our app offers a sophisticated system for managing volunteers in an integrated way, from skills based triage and recruitment to smart deployment (if you have a surplus in one area, you can deploy them to an area with shortages, instead of putting them on a waiting list, even if each area is managed by a different provider).
2) As professionals fall ill in care homes, how do you recruit to fill the staff shortage? Our app consolidates all the recruiting agencies, so we can create a national pool of care staff, cleaners, kitchen porters. Our system also helps predict and locate shortages, and prioritise resources. It also helps track symptoms within homes so you can aggregate them and spot trends and allow "remote visits" from family via video, and remote consultations and advice from medical and/or isolating staff via video, voice and chat.
3) If people have to go to hospitals, post offices, or other public services, how do you enforce social distancing when people have to queue to be processed? Our system provides digital queue control, so people don't have to queue next to each other.
4) When people are desperate for information, and go to the website or make calls, how do you lead them to the right information and spare human resources to deal with complex calls or emails? Our system offers a first line of support chatbot that can triage initial enquiries and direct people to reliable information, without taking up resources.
5) As hospitals and care homes struggle with obtaining goods, how do we ensure all available resources can be harnessed? Our system allows goods suppliers to aggregate their inventories, so key agencies can book them in one portal, instead of trying to contact 200 suppliers. It also allows us to track demand and supply trends, anticipating and mitigating shortages.
6) How do you keep public services running with staff at home? Our system allows for the booking of activities and services, including via zoom, entirely digitally.
7) How do you allow professionals and family to have contact with vulnerable, isolated people without putting them or themselves at risk? Our system allows them to communicate/visit remotely by video, voice and chat.
How we built it
Our leadership team gave its full backing to the initiative and staff volunteers from across the company came together to hack solutions that build on our strengths and can scale and be deployed rapidly. The Global Hack provided further inspiration, a framework and a timescale that helped us move into accelerated action.
We consulted challenge calls from public sector to identify preliminary need; we also consulted with advisers in the local government, care home and recruitment sectors to narrow down and enrich the relevance.
We then carried out a co-design workshop with staff members from across the business, from developers to client services to senior management up to CEO level. This was followed by a technical workshop with the software developers and configuration experts in the team, to identify the feasibility of the design concept, and a roadmap to implementation.
Further consultation with stakeholders confirmed evidence of need and validated our solution, and the Global Hack slack channel provided networks and referrals to institutions who might benefit adding further validation and confirmation the demand and relevance was global.
Team members then worked on re-configuring our system to be able to process not just venues and activities as before, but human resources. We spun a parallel production environment on AWS and created a sandbox where missing functionality could be gradually added. We likewise agreed partnerships with third party providers we could integrate into our offering to complete the functionality.
We allocated the Global Hack period to arriving at a deployable and immediately scalable Proof of Concept that could nevertheless be further refined and tailored to the needs of individual government agencies. health bodies, hospitals, care homes and volunteer organisations.