Everyone beneath the roof of the nursing school in Haiti was killed when it collapsed as a result of the 2010 earthquake—students, teachers and the school’s director died at a time when their skills were needed most. “A generation of local care givers was gone,” says Dr. Lisbet Hansen, co-founder of Colleagues In Care (CIC). “They needed to start all over again, but needed help in the interim—that’s how CIC came to be.”
Lisa Smith, a business solutions professional in the government and healthcare sectors for IBM in the United States, knew of Dr. Hanson’s work—they attend the same church in Virginia, which years before had established an ongoing relationship with a parish in Baptiste, Haiti. “For some time we’ve had a close connection with Haiti and the people of Baptiste; they’re our extended family,” says Lisa. “It was devastating news to learn about the earthquake and, like so many others, I wanted to help.”
About 220,000 people died from the quake, and vital infrastructure necessary to respond to the tragedy—hospitals, telecommunications, road systems—was destroyed. “As a volunteer through IBM’s community programs since 1984, I knew I could search inside the company for possible solutions to help the Haitian people,” says Lisa, who then contacted the founders of CIC to offer her services.
A virtual lifeline
The global support for Haiti was massive and thousands of volunteers offered their help. However, in the case of the medical situation, there was no system for matching the skills of volunteers with the needs of patients. In addition, when volunteers in one area would establish an effective process or procedure, there also was no way of passing along the valuable information to others.
With Lisa acting as a volunteer technical advisor, Colleagues In Care was created to provide a secure and simple way to crowdsource assistance from medical volunteers around the world and then easily share it with new volunteers in Haiti.
“We decided to look at how IBM SmartCloud could be used to connect physicians and volunteers from around the world with Haitian health providers and government leaders to help those in need,” says Lisa. The approach would allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to assist in medical situations without needing to travel to Haiti.
According to Lisa, SmartCloud had never been used in this way before and it opened collaboration between CIC and the IBM SmartCloud software team. Together they created a system that lets community members—CIC is open to everyone—work on their own time, from anywhere they can access the Internet, to contribute content and expert guidance on any number of medical issues. Photos and video, very helpful for training, and even telemedicine, such as ultrasound or radiology images, can be added for consultations.
In 2011, Lisa connected IBM SmartCloud experts and others interested in CIC. More than 20 IBM volunteers from all over the world focused on the top CIC health concerns to assist physicians and new members learn to use SmartCloud to collaborate.
Today, CIC is using IBM SmartCloud to virtually connect medical workers and volunteers around the globe. Using the CIC social collaboration model, volunteers and those on the front lines taking care of patients can be armed with an online medical knowledge system that includes treatment options, clinical pathways and best possible practices—protocols for care—specific to Haiti’s medical needs.
For example, the hypertension and blood pressure certification program at Haiti's primary medical school will be based on a “best possible practice” created by CIC. With medical personnel and facilities in short supply in Haiti, a “best possible practice” takes the protocols of care—the norms for diagnosis and treatment—and adapts them to what is available and possible in the country. CIC collaboration developed a process that with a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, watch and training, hypertension can be diagnosed, treated and monitored helping prevent stroke, related conditions and death.
Volunteering and professional development
CIC's use of IBM SmartCloud, and its real-time, co-editing tool called IBM Docs, has established a model that can be extended to other health-focused organizations and to other underserved areas around the world and in the United States. In 2013, CIC was named a Computerworld Honors Laureate in Health for humanitarian use of technology.
“We have proven what can be done on a small scale in Haiti with a few medical conditions,” says Lisa. “If a small organization like CIC can make a life-changing impact in Haiti, imagine what can be done by larger organizations. Our job is to continue working with Haiti, and get the word out to others about how this cloud-based collaboration solution can be used for many other needs.”
Professional development takes many forms, and even though Lisa’s volunteer experience with CIC is a personal passion, she acknowledges that “volunteering helps me think outside the box, and in turn, helps me do the same in working with my prospective and current clients.”
“Ever since I was a child, volunteering and helping others was core in my family,” Lisa says. “Now, since I work in the healthcare and government areas, I focus on education, human rights and healthcare as a priority in my volunteering—helping the underserved and gaining first-hand experience that hopefully benefits my clients.”
A multi-year recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award recognizing outstanding contributions in community service, Lisa says that she is “also proud to have so many IBM and non-IBM colleagues come together with their hearts, hands and expertise to help those in need.”