A look inside three Dublin hospitals where Amazon Web Services is helping to improve the hospital experience for staff, patients and their families.
The National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh, Tallaght University Hospital, and Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown have a couple of things in common; they all serve local communities in Ireland, and they all work with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make life better for everyone who comes through their doors.
AWS has long been helping Ireland’s public sector to drive transformation within their organisations. For example, the Health Service Executive (HSE), Caredoc and Wellola have all used AWS cloud technology to build modern, efficient services for the people of Ireland. These include the COVID Tracker App and cloud-based telehealth services for those in remote areas or with mobility issues.
Beyond powering Irish businesses and helping public institutions to innovate and scale, AWS has been investing in Ireland for over 15 years. AWS has also been engaging with its neighbours through the AWS InCommunities programme. This programme delivers hyper-local initiatives designed to have lasting impact in the communities our employees work and live in. We spoke to people who play key roles at each hospital and hear first-hand about how AWS is providing support.
Doctor Connor Green, Cappagh Kids Ward, National Orthopaedic Hospital
“AWS has helped us turn a potentially scary place for a child into a place where they are happy and having fun. You often hear about kids crying because they have to go to hospital – at Cappagh Kids we want to make the experience so great that children will be sad to leave.”
Doctor Connor Green is a Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at Cappagh Kids, the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Ireland which looks after children across the country with neuromuscular or neuro disability problems such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida or limb deficiencies. Although Doctor Connor and his colleagues can provide the surgical treatments needed by these children, the hospital had limitations in their post-surgical rehabilitation services.
“We estimated that we needed 20 beds to meet the needs of the entire country. We had an outdated wardroom that was being used for storage and transformed it so it was fit-for-use, modern and child friendly. AWS employees volunteered to replace a floor to make it medical standard, supplied and fit timber around the walls, boxed in pipes for safety, repainted walls, and installed medical bed lights and USB sockets.
“I can’t over-emphasise what a revolution in care this is for the kids. We can now offer four beds for rehabilitation in a state-of-the-art facility called the Cappagh Kids Rehabilitation Unit. These kids have a huge amount of ability. They are good kids and very intelligent, but unfortunately society can often define people by their disabilities rather than their abilities. I feel strongly that they have so much to contribute in their lives, so their healthcare and education should be invested in. The rehabilitation unit refurbished by AWS has revolutionised the care we can provide them, and we plan to do more.”
Doctor Connor says their work is about improving the entire experience for patients. From providing ice-pops after surgery to turning a corridor into a digital fish tank, the staff at Cappagh Kids ward are going above and beyond.
“When you work with children in healthcare one of the most important things you have in your toolbox is distraction! AWS has donated Amazon Fire Tablets which kids can watch movies, play games and listen to music on. We also have a glass walkway from the ward to the operating theatre and it is the perfect opportunity to distract children from the potentially overwhelming idea of going into surgery. We needed to raise €10,000 to turn the glass walkway into a digital fish tank using specialised screens. A few colleagues and I did a fundraising cycle which raised €7,000. AWS stepped in and donated the extra €3,000 to get us to our goal.
“These partnerships between the public and private sectors are the future. I think the support from AWS helps us fill a void between what is a basic requirement and what makes us a state-of-the-art facility. With this support, we can now fast track the care of these kids who previously had no access to rehabilitation – and with their maximised abilities who knows what impact they will have on the world!”
Lucy Nugent, CEO of Tallaght University Hospital
“We are a large, academic teaching hospital and a partner of Trinity College Dublin. Our staff is made up of almost 3,500 employees and we serve the immediate catchment area of 650,000 people. Like AWS, we put a huge focus on research and innovation, so it’s a great partnership!”
Since being appointed CEO of Tallaght University Hospital, Lucy Nugent has not only been working toward a vision with a five-year strategy plan, she has also steered the hospital through the global pandemic. She says working with AWS has driven innovation, challenged the organisation to think outside of their everyday, and has helped them through the crisis healthcare faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“AWS were good neighbours to us throughout the pandemic. When things started kicking off, we got a phone call from AWS InCommunities asking how they could help. It was a really challenging time; we had to convert our operating theatres into ICU wards and implement processes and guidance to reduce the spread of infection as much as possible.
“A game-changer for us was when AWS donated Amazon Echo Show devices. These devices enabled teams to consult with each other virtually, helping us reduce footfall and be more frugal with our PPE supplies. They also provided 30 recycled laptops and 50 headsets which we could give to staff who had to self-isolate or were categorised as vulnerable, but still wanted to contribute by working from home. They also provided Amazon gift cards to purchase iPads so patients could see and talk to their families.
“Now, emerging from the global pandemic, the focus is firmly back on innovation and how the hospital can lead on healthcare solutions with support from AWS.
“We have a culture of always striving to do things better. AWS has supported us by developing a physical ‘Innovation Hub’ in our main atrium, and the AWS volunteers even painted a blue sky on the ceiling of the hub to embody our ‘blue sky thinking’. It’s a vital resource for finding new and innovative solutions in healthcare. We run an ideas clinic every Tuesday and Thursday at the hub to guide staff on challenges or to help develop out ideas they have. It’s run by our Head of Innovation Doctor Natalie Cole and our Clinical Innovation Fellow Doctor Hannah O’Keeffe.
“Encouraging the next generation of computer science graduates to consider a career in healthcare tech is another focus area for us. AWS have teamed up with the hospital to run ‘Health Hackathons’, where we set six challenges based on problems our clinicians face every day. The students are given 24 hours to come up with a solution and AWS volunteers are there on the day to provide technical support, mentorship and inspiration to the students – and what they come up with is just amazing.
“We can be so entrenched in the day to day of hospital life we don’t always have the time to think about how we can do things differently. We believe in this partnership because it’s a remedy to that. One small example is when AWS hosted some of us at their offices and we did a leadership workshop, learning business mechanisms like the ‘working backwards’ approach. This means that if you have an idea, you start with the end point of where you want to be by developing a press statement about the project and its impact, and then work backwards from there.
“To me, starting a project by writing a press release is bold, and we need to be bold in healthcare.”
Amanda Foy, Fundraising Co-ordinator for Blanchardstown Hospital Society
“We’re the official fundraising body for Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown. Although hospitals have a government budget this can only stretch so far and is focused on necessities, rather than resources that really elevate quality of care. Our charity is about raising the bar on the patient experience, their comfort and anything extra we can do for the staff who work so hard. It’s important we work with companies like AWS so we can propel our fundraising efforts.”
Amanda has worked with the Blanchardstown Hospital Society for over two years. After her father was a patient in the stroke unit at Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown, she realised what a difference these seemingly small details made. After his passing, she wanted to do something positive – and so her fundraising journey began.
“Even in hospital, dad was independent and always trying to fix things. He made us bring in a toolkit so he could add a harness to his wheelchair that could hold his radio. He liked to move around, but we had an issue trying to ensure he always had an electric bed which would help with his mobility; it made such a difference to his quality of life and morale, but there weren’t many in the hospital. That was the first fundraiser I worked on, getting more electric beds for the stroke unit.”
Amanda says it’s a challenge finding fundraising partners when you’re a charity for a local hospital: “People assume the government are giving you enough support, and national and international businesses might support charities that match their size and reach. When AWS came onboard, we could feel the impact immediately.
“In the last couple of years AWS InCommunities have made cash donations, product donations, sent volunteers to help us with projects on the ground, and four of their employees even took part in a charity abseil with us at Croke Park!
“This partnership has allowed us to improve the hospital in many ways for patients and staff. AWS donated money towards new infusion chairs, which are custom-built and make a huge difference to oncology and colitis patients who spends hours receiving treatment while sat down. Previously, we only had regular armchairs which become uncomfortable for patients after a while. We hope this comfort makes a big difference to patients who might be visiting the hospital for difficult treatments.
“We’ve also worked with AWS to refurbish an old security hut and gateway into the hospital that had fallen into disrepair and was starting to attract anti-social behaviour. Staff still use this as an entrance and exit into the hospital at all hours of the day, so when AWS volunteers cleaned up the area and installed new gates, it made a big difference to safety and security, especially to our night shift workers.
“We’re trying to do more for staff wellbeing and comfort. The AWS employees who completed the abseil raised about €4,000 and this will be used to renovate an area into a wellbeing space for our staff to relax and take well-earned breaks. We’ll have new flooring, furniture and a fresh paint job to make sure it’s up to scratch. We have 1,600 staff members working in the hospital, so we hope this is just the start of improving their experience at work.”