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Tech firms, academia and charities unite to deliver 4G tablets to Covid-19 patients

The Life Lines project aims to keep critically ill patients connected when they are being cared for inside intensive care units across the UK

Technology companies, academia and charitable organisations have partnered to deliver 4G tablets to critically ill patients that are being treated for Covid-19 so they can keep in touch with their families.

The Life Lines project aims to provide two tablets to all intensive care units (ICU) in the the UK. The project is the result of collaborative work between clinicians, academics, companies and charities. Initial seed funding of £1m has been provided for the project by the True Colours Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

The project – launched on 14 April 2020 at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospital in London – has involved BT, Google, Samsung and MobileIron to provide “a large number” of 4G-enabled tablets secured by Android Enterprise and loaded with a secure online platform, dubbed aTouchAway.

To enable the connectivity to support Life Lines, BT has also offered the option to ICUs to implement a 4G Wi-Fi hub which can be installed by clinicians themselves.

According to the project’s stakeholders, the tablets provide families with opportunities to meet the clinical team providing care, ask questions, and better understand the environment where patients are being treated. The tablets also allow the families and friends of critically ill patients to see them at the end of their lives.

“By collaborating with our technology partners and initially working closely with Guy’s and St Thomas’, we turned the delivery of the solution around in just three working days so that patients and staff can start using the technology as quickly as possible,” said Gerry McQuade, CEO at BT Enterprise.

It is expected that the number of tablets per ICU will increase in the coming weeks, supported by a fundraising campaign that has launched alongside the announcement of the roll-out.

NHSX, the digital unit of the National Health Service, recently announced a partnership with Facebook to distribute thousands of devices that the social networking giant has developed to provide “emotional support and companionship during Covid-19”.

Under the initiative, led in partnership with Accenture, 2,050 Portal video-calling devices developed by Facebook will be supplied for free to hospitals, care homes and other settings including hospices, in-patient learning disability and autism units.

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