LauraLynn’s technological revolution: A new dawn for children’s hospices (video)

28 Jan 2016

Sharon Morrow, CEO of LauraLynn – all images via Connor McKenna

We sit down with Sharon Morrow, CEO of LauraLynn Children’s Hospice, to talk about time, technology, tailored care and a vastly improving service.

LauraLynn is Ireland’s only children’s hospice. You may know this from funding drives on the radio, local bake sales or marathon sponsorship cards. School raffles, table quizzes or celebrity endorsements. It is all supported by donations, after all.

Beyond the name, though, do you know what goes on there? Of course, you could be aware of it because you are personally involved. But, if, like me, you have never needed assistance from LauraLynn, you might be a little lost for answers.

So, with a camera in hand, we headed out to the Leopardstown facility to chat with Sharon Morrow, CEO of LauraLynn, about what staff there do, how they do it and why simple technological improvements are revolutionising their caregiving.

LauraLynn children's hospice

First up, traffic is a nightmare in Leopardstown. The stress of just getting to the building must be extraordinary for parents of children who go there. But, once inside the gates, it’s remarkably calm.

There are facilities for everything you could imagine: patient rooms, family rooms, play rooms, therapy rooms, a canteen, playgrounds, a wonderful sensory garden and little trinkets everywhere.

We spotted a good half dozen fairy doors on our travels. The staff are, as with any caregiving facility, lovely. And, when we meet Morrow, everything just seems normal.

Summing it all up

‘Giving more life to your days, not more days to your life’ is a tagline we’re told sums up LauraLynn and, as Morrow opens up about the practice, this becomes clear.

Only four years old, LauraLynn’s hospice is actually part of a 90-year timeline, which started out with a convalescence home and gradually incorporated the Children’s Sunshine Home.

The LauraLynn Children’s Hospice Foundation was set up in 2001 by Jane and Brendan McKenna after their daughters, four-year-old Laura and 13-year-old Lynn, died within two years of each other.

This culminated in the opening of the Leopardstown hospice, with Morrow there to oversee proceedings in the last few years. Some children stay for extended periods, others for a couple of days, with every visit an emotional ordeal for parents, made easier by Morrow and co.

“There is plenty to consider for parents,” she says. “Most of these children are quite sick, quite fragile, they would have a lot of equipment that their parents would need to transport with them when they come to stay here.”


Double up

Morrow tells me of one family that needs to take two very long trips in order to transport the medical equipment as well as their child, with LauraLynn now investing in more particular equipment to host on site to make things a little easier.

“For a family to pack all that up can be quite an undertaking. We use the likes of BUMBLEance and other supports to do that. But we would like to expand our LauraLynn at Home programme to provide a service that works for them.”

The home visits have proved remarkably successful in recent years thanks to, surprisingly, tablets: carers take straightforward Microsoft Surface Pro 3 hybrid computers with then as they travel around a fairly large area in the east of the country.

When the home service started, carers had to head out to homes, from Leopardstown, and return there in the evening to file their reports. This took an awful lot of time, and wasted an awful lot of paper.

Now, with 11 staff, some tablets and a centralised Sláinte Healthcare Vitro computer system, remarkable improvements have been made.


Big demand

“We currently cater to 60 families but we know there are 200 in just the Dublin region that would like to access that service. There is certainly a demand. So this is a huge time-saver,” says Morrow.

“Particularly, when you look at the team working in the Louth area, it’s quite the journey back here in the evening to record what they do during the day. We have a satellite hub in Clonee for that and now they can spend that saved time on another home visit each evening.”

The Vitro system is relatively new at the hospice, with LauraLynn moving from a paper-based record system on to spreadsheets before going digital. Each child would have had 90 documents originally, but the Vitro team demanded the staff reduce this as much as possible before they got involved.

“That was a great thing. It made us more lean, made for greater governance of our activities,” says Morrow. Now, updates from the various staff that treat a child are digital. No need for filing, dozens of duplications, storage, archiving or other time-consuming (and costly) practices. It just seems so simple.

We spoke to some staff around LauraLynn who noted some initial resistance to the new service, especially those who had been working with handwritten notes for a particularly long time. Now, though, they’re more than converts, they’re advocates.

And we are, too, especially when we look at another new addition to LauraLynn, the OneView entertainment systems in the children’s rooms.


So much more to offer

Supported in a crane-like frame, the computers have internet, TV, radio and, of course, patient records. This means that staff interact with a computer at the end of the bed and don’t have to trawl up and down corridors to archive rooms as in previous years.

“We would like to add some educational videos to the OneView systems in future, so that carers or parents can look at how to treat a situation that their child is in,” says Morrow. We’re also told how key this system is to patients’ families while they hang around in Leopardstown.

The patient might have a young sister or brother and keeping them entertained is something I hadn’t considered. And this is only the first phase, according to Mark McCloskey, president and founder of OneView Healthcare.

It includes HL7 integration with the Sláinte Healthcare Vitro system, video links from patient rooms to family rooms on-site, calming audio-visual designs and therapeutic games to enhance the child’s well-being while at LauraLynn, and digital care management that enables the patients and their families to engage remotely with LauraLynn throughout the year.

We’re told that updates are continuous. Lyric FM, for one, wasn’t something they thought they would need but, upon chatting to parents, it was added to the system.

More technological plans are underway, too. Referral systems, for example, is something Morrow wants to look at. And then?  “On to the next thing.” Children’s hospices don’t hang about. Four years of consistent bureaucratic overhaul just isn’t enough.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic