Tell us how Wsparcie dla Szpitala started?
Jakub Jasiczak: In mid-March I thought, “We’re stuck at home, there must be some way we can be useful.” Around 60 of my colleagues – scientists from various universities in Poland – felt the same way, so we started the Virtual Crisis Institute to offer our help to fight COVID-19. One of our ideas was around managing donations of supplies. We saw people calling hospitals, driving there with bottles of water, volunteers trying to track everything manually using spreadsheets… it was chaos. That day, I saw a Facebook post from Jakub offering Clorce’s expertise to build a new platform, and Wsparciedlaszpitala.pl was born.
Jakub Tabedzki: In five days the developers at Clorce built a service, based on Salesforce.org’s package for NGOs, that allowed hospitals to create lists of what they needed. We started with five volunteers, who we trained in Salesforce on the fly – teaching them how to create leads, convert and manage leads – and they onboarded 100 hospitals over the phone.
The pandemic context evolved quickly. How have you had to pivot to adapt as the situation developed?
JT: As new use cases came up, we’ve added elements to the organisation and the digital platform. Five volunteers wasn’t enough, so we scaled up to 30. By day 10, we had created a new type of account for local coordinators, so they could go through hospitals’ lists and mark what people could provide. When donations are delivered, the lists update in real-time.
At the 15-day mark, we got famous. We had a 2-minute slot on a headline TV news show about COVID-19, and the site got thousands of hits. This was the day we added a new account type so ordinary people could join, find a hospital and see what was needed, then tell local coordinators what they could provide – no phone calls or Facebook messages needed.
JJ: The local coordinators are crucial to the process – they provide the link between the public and the hospitals. They build connections with companies and the media, too.
Can you share how you’re using data? It seems like a crucial piece of the process.
JT: We used Tableau to build the main dashboard that you see on the site, which shows you the needs of each hospital at a glance. You can filter by need, and search by location. Tableau employees have been amazing at sharing their expertise with us – one of their engineers even worked with us directly. As well as this main dashboard, we also built non-public-facing dashboards to track hospitals that don’t have local coordinators, and to handle media enquiries.
We’re not only visualising and sharing data, we’re learning from it, too. We knew that hospitals would need things like masks, but when you get diagnosed with COVID-19, you go into isolation and can’t take anything with you. How are you going to wash or brush your teeth? So hospitals also need things like toothbrushes.
JJ: We found that there was a mismatch between what hospitals need and what ordinary people can provide – to get masks and gowns, we realised we had to connect local coordinators to companies. We’re now buying supplies directly from Poland’s biggest pharmaceutical wholesaler.
JT: We heard from one hospital that they were using baby monitors so that doctors could communicate with patients without going into their rooms. So we sent an email to 200 hospitals saying, “Hey, if you’re running low on PPE, why not try using baby monitors?” This is an example of how we’re not just distributing donations, we’re sharing knowledge too.