After hearing about people who had panic-bought too much PPE for personal use, we were inspired to make a tool that lets people donate their extra masks and gloves to hospitals. We expanded this idea to include all types of medical supplies to all types of medical facilities with donations by not just individuals, but also teams and organizations. Sandy Oldfield’s story, as mentioned in the demo video, has greatly inspired us to take action regarding this global issue, especially during COVID-19.

What it does

The right solution at the right time — COVID-19 has demonstrated that we need a way to get supplies to hospitals, and an efficient way of distributing these resources from donors based on prioritization of hospital needs. However, many potential donors are not aware of where to donate in order to make the biggest impact out of their PPE donation. MedGear is a React.js web app that organizes PPE donations. It connects donors with nearby hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities by showing which places need it most. Medical facilities can post how much of what supplies they need and donors can schedule PPE deliveries. Thus, MedGear connects local, regional, and global resources to slow the spread by helping out PPE distribution.

How we built it

We built this project by making a prototype of the app using React, Node.js, and Firebase which provided us a real-time database, authentication, and back-end as a service. The NoSQL database with 256-bit encryption allows users to securely request and donate supplies. We made two different interfaces, one for donors to login into, and one for medical workers to log into. This way, medical facilities can request supplies, and volunteer distributors and donors can provide the necessary PPE for specific facilities. We also made a visualization and notification system to increase donations using COVID-19 dataset. In order to leverage React, we made appealing UI/UX background using Canva and integrated them into the app.

Challenges we ran into

We faced obstacles in planning a business model for our project. As an app that relies on the selflessness of others, it was difficult to find ways to generate revenue and cover expenses without being hypocritical to the spirit of donations. In the end, we decided on charging hospitals a very small fee of all donated PPE; much less than the cost of buying it but enough to cover server expenses. Getting the authentication for the users to work was a challenge as well with Firebase, in order to have a more secure platform. Another challenge we faced was linking the hospital’s supply requests, including type and amount, to the donor’s portal to show this information for the corresponding hospital.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We’re proud of our unique key features that make donating more interactive and engaging:

  1. Real-time data visualization of PPE requests.
  2. Predictions for where PPE stocks will run out next
  3. Gamification that awards users points for how much they donate to encourage friendly competition.

We are also proud of being able to develop a prototype of this app, and that our solution will be functional after the pandemic to keep people safe, and give them access to medical care when they need it. Also, we were able to apply many of our skills to this project from full-stack development to data analysis, and build a scalable model.

What we learned

MedGear was excellent practice in combining CS with business planning. Having an app that engages with communities adds complexities like quality control, user engagement, and incentivization. This was a new experience for us which helped not only improve our programming skills, but also our business skills by developing a model, taking in count our target market, costs, scalability, and future plans. On the technical side, we learned how to integrate Firebase into our app in order to have a secure authentication process, as well as using React to build an adaptable prototype. Also, we learned how to integrate a map interface into our project using Folium and Leaflet to display nearby hospitals by PPE prioritization.

What's next for MedGear

In the future, we plan on completing our frontend and backend by July and then launching in a small community. Starting in a small community will help engage users on a more personal level and help the app gain traction while also giving time to test our scalability. Social media interaction will play a role in our plan to get the app to users as well. We will also reach out to makerspaces and online maker communities, local government, and universities to incentivise student adoption. Also, we have plans to add:

  1. A prioritization algorithm that flags which facilities need PPE the most
  2. Quality and quantity confirmations by facilities that receive PPE
  3. A feature to post/share your donation and challenge other people to donate more
  4. A system of middlemen to pool deliveries
  5. To reach out to major companies for donations
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