Low-Tech Inpatient Telehealth Solution Connects Patients, Families, and Physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital

February 19, 2021

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

Sometimes innovations come from using what you have on hand to solve a problem, even if it’s not the latest, coolest technology that will impress your peers. Think back to the movie Apollo 13 — engineers in Houston had to fabricate a solution for the astronauts, using only what was available onboard the spacecraft. What they came up with looked a little like a 6th-grade science project, made from cardboard and duct tape. But it worked.

Last year, when every hospital had to pivot quickly to adapt to the realities of COVID-19, clinicians at Boston Children’s Hospital approached the digital strategy team for help. They wanted to see if QR codes could be used to facilitate in-hospital teleconferencing for COVID-19 patients. “They needed 500 and something [QR codes] for every room in every area of the hospital,” says Bill Gagnon, head of global digital strategy transformation and customer experience at Boston Children’s.

William Gagnon is senior director, digital at Boston Children’s

William Gagnon, senior director, digital, Boston Children’s

QR codes, which have been around for more than 25 years, made a big comeback in 2020, driven by the need for “contactless” technologies to limit the spread of the virus. The fact that cameras on iOS and Android devices are now capable of scanning and automatically reading QR codes has expanded their usefulness in multiple contexts — restaurants, banking, and more.

The use case Boston Children’s had in mind was to virtually connect patients, families, and clinicians for virtual consults using Zoom, minimizing potential exposure to the coronavirus. And since visitors to the hospital were limited to one parent or guardian, the solution also gave other family members a way to join consults.

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