We need it yesterday
Michel Paquet, CEO of Canadian digital health company Aetonix, had paid a visit to St Thomas’ Hospital in February to showcase his aTouchAway app, then a two-way virtual communications tool designed to connect patients living at home with their clinician.
Professor Rose quickly got back in touch. “She called and said, ‘this is happening and this is new. We think you could actually do something for us, because we saw what you could do’,” Mr Paquet said.
A meeting was called and in the space of two hours, Professor Rose, Dr Meyer, and Mr Paquet discussed how to redesign and reprogram the app to function as a secure cloud-based virtual visiting platform. It had to be simple to use in a busy ICU ward, completely secure and reliable, and able to support texts and three-way video conversations between loved ones.
The Life Lines initiative was born.
Inside, Mr Paquet was panicking. His job as an IT professional is to find rapid solutions, but the speed required for Life Lines was breathtaking.
“Dr Meyer told me, ‘we’re doing this and we need it yesterday’,” he said.
Of course as an entrepreneur, you say yes. But then you go home and think, I'm only going to sleep for one hour over the next three months.
He was also driven by his own experience; when his own father had died, he’d had the chance to be with him.
Like many IT professionals across the world in 2020, Mr Paquet met the challenge. Within days of the government’s announcement, rapid testing of aTouchAway had begun.
“Within two weeks, we had developed the bespoke virtual visiting solution, we had secured a tablet supply, secured a one-million-pound charitable donation to pay for the tablets and the software, and started to distribute to hospitals across the UK,” Professor Rose said.
The first virtual visit took place for an ICU patient at St Thomas’ Hospital on March 25.
And then, Mr Paquet said, “it spread like wildfire”.