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Upopolis Launches in Windsor Regional Hospital

December 9, 2015

Mary Jo Haddad wrote this guest blog post about Upopolis when it launched at Windsor Regional Hospital. Mary Jo is an Independent Director of TELUS Corporation and a member of the board of directors of Kids Health Links Foundation.

One of my challenges and priorities as former President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) was to lead in the transformation of health systems all the while making sure that children were at the forefront of resources and services.

Throughout my career, as a champion of children’s health, I found that creating an improvement culture through integration and working collaboratively with others were key to promoting the adoption of innovative practices. Within the healthcare continuum, the past few years have been marked with the integration of innovations (electronic medical records, telehealth and home health monitoring to name a few) that have shifted healthcare and the way we provide care. What has remained pivotal to success is ensuring the patient and the patient experience remain at the heart of everything we do.

As a Windsorite (native to Windsor Ontario) and a University of Windsor alumni, I was particularly moved when the Windsor Regional Hospital became the first community hospital to join Upopolis. Upopolis, which I was privileged to be introduced to when it was launched several years ago at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), is a wonderful example of how the power of technology, when integrated in the healthcare system, has the ability to improve the patient experience and dramatically impact a child’s psychological well-being.

Developed by Kids’ Health Links Foundation, in partnership with TELUS Health, Upopolis is a private social community that safely connects young hospital patients to their family, friends and school network. The platform is a tool that not only explains medical terms in simple language, it also helps kids connect with other kids across Canada who are dealing with a medical diagnosis, and to family and friends at a time when they can feel very anxious and isolated.

This year, the platform was completely redesigned to include a mobile version. When we consider that 39% of kids in grades 4 to 11 sleep with their phone, and 85% of grade 11 own their own phone, it was a natural evolution. The platform, which currently has over 400 users, offers other cool features such as:

  • Personal spaces or ‘walls’: where kids can express themselves and invite people to join. So far, more than 100 spaces have been created.
  • Unique feature that offers live video chats facilitated by a child life specialist and led by a health care professional on a variety of topics each month. Users can choose to join the live chats to get information, share experiences and be part of a supportive community.
  • Uknow: the medical content and resource space within Upopolis. The content is driven by patients, helping to ensure relevancy to the pediatric patients accessing the site. Medical information and resources are delivered through a variety of multi-media approaches such as video tours of hospital.
  • UMentor and UPal: programs allow youth who have an interest in a leadership opportunity to participate in improvements on the site, welcome new users and become a contact for them or participate in special events and activities on the site.  Both programs provide hours toward mandatory high school volunteer hours that are otherwise not possible due to their illness or hospitalization.
  • Cyberbullying and monitoring: throughout the site, there are clickable buttons that allow users and staff to report content. Several levels of security have also been built into UPOPOLIS to monitor the site on a daily basis and respond to any questions.

As social networks and technology become more prevalent in the lives of Canadian children and teens today, young patients also want the opportunity to stay connected while receiving care. Keeping hospitalized kids socially connected is an important therapeutic tool. When caring for patients, and especially young ones, there is something very special about seeing them feel better. By alleviating the stress, isolation and loneliness experienced by kids and teens while they are undergoing medical treatment, Upopolis is an incredibly powerful tool for pediatric health.

Embracing technology that enables health system improvements and better patient outcomes must be a priority for all of us.  If you have not yet been introduced, I would like you to meet Maggie. A very courageous young girl suffering from severe hip dysplasia who has found tremendous comfort, in the often depressing hospital setting, by keeping in touch with her friends via Upopolis. Click here, and meet Maggie.

Today, Upopolis can be found across Canada at:

  • The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, ON
  • Lutherwood Children’s Mental Health Center, Kitchener-Waterloo, ON
  • McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton, ON
  • IWK Health Care Centre, Halifax, NS
  • BC Children’s Hospital, Vancouver, BC
  • Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, ON
  • Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, ON
  • Ste-Justine University Hospital Centre, Montreal, QC
  • Children’s Hospital London Health Sciences Centre, London, ON
  • Emily’s House hospice in Toronto, ON
  • Eastern Health Center for Youth Mental Health and Addictions, Paradise, NL
  • Central Health Center for Youth Mental Health and Addictions, Grand Falls-Windsor, ON
  • Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre, St. John’s
  • Windsor Regional Hospital, Windsor, ON