A Smart Story – Barbershop’s Short Doc on Using Smartphones to Save Lives


A Smart Story – Barbershop’s Short Doc on Using Smartphones to Save Lives

A BC Children’s Hospital initiative, funded by Mining4Life, has enabled normal smartphones to become critical healthcare tools in Uganda and Kenya. Barbershop was fortunate to help tell the story.

For the vast majority of us, our smartphones do not exactly influence us to be our best. Rather, we’re using our personal devices to record strangers falling down, to send late-night pics to an estranged ex or the neighbourhood Taco Bell; we’re unwittingly driving through red lights and worst of all, we’re recording ourselves ‘performing’ a very ill-advised TikTok dance that you’ll certainly have to apologize for at some point later in life. Our phones are hazards.

But some individuals are using smartphones to help save lives in countries that have limited access to medical resources and technology.

We were lucky enough to help promote these invaluable advancements and the impact they are having on children’s lives.

01 — Possibly the World’s Greatest Smartphone App

Smart Triage is making sure sick kids in low-resource countries are receiving the care they need. The Centre for International Child Health at the BC Children’s Hospital developed a digital platform that enables the triage (assessment of patients in order to determine the urgency of their need for treatment) of sick or critically ill children in low-resource settings. Smart Triage consists of a smartphone app that allows healthcare workers to easily identify emergency and high-risk children, a clinician dashboard where reports can be accessed, and a Bluetooth ‘smart spot’ that allows healthcare workers to easily monitor patient times to ensure the timely provision of care.

The system is being used in two East African sites (Kenya and Uganda) where previously, patients were often admitted on a first come, first serve basis, leading to delayed care for children in urgent need. In some cases, children with critical healthcare needs wouldn’t receive the care they required at all. This works to change that. And the beauty of the design is that it does not require the user to be a healthcare professional to utilize the app.

The impact of the app has been profound, due largely to the democratized access to it. Healthcare centres in low-resource areas now have access to medical expertise via a widely used tool. In the two centres it has been implemented, the mortality rate of children in the emergency room dropped by an astounding 30 percent. Based on the success of the project, the plan is to expand the program throughout Eastern Africa.

02 — Smart Storytelling

So why is this all showing up on a Barbershop blog? Were we involved? In some infinitesimal way, that deserves absolutely no credit for the invaluable work being done, yes. In that sense, very involved.

The Smart Triage project was funded by Mining4Life, a mining industry initiative that helps create and support sustainable health and education solutions for children in need, who have raised almost $30 million since 2010. Mining4Life has contributed a total of $6 million to the project.

Every year, the mining industry hosts a fundraising gala, where the beneficiaries produce and screen a short video that highlights the impact of the funding. BC Children’s Hospital Foundation (BCCHF) was one of the beneficiaries who showcased the support from Mining4Life for their Smart Triage project.

Of course, ‘short video’ is where Barbershop comes in. But in truth, we are writing this blog for one reason: we are utterly grateful to help promote a project that is saving children’s lives. Few projects make us feel more grateful to be involved, even in some tangential way.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to be part of something that gives back,” said Jordan Bell, post-production supervisor at Barbershop and editor of the Smart Triage video.

“When you get the chance to do something that is actually making such a significant difference, it’s truly heart-warming. As a parent, it’s something that resonates with me on a personal level,” said Bell.

03 — A Progressive Partnership

As eternally humbled as we were to be involved in showcasing this project, the task itself wasn’t a cakewalk. Luckily, we have established a trusting, six-year relationship with BCCHF that allowed us to work efficiently.

“Since we’ve had a long working relationship with Barbershop, they understand our style of videos, they understand healthcare and fundraising, and how to ask questions in interviews to get the great soundbites. There’s a real shorthand for how we work, which is incredibly helpful because it helps me do my job well,” said Joanna Munro, Senior Producer at BCCHF.

In order to meet the deadline for the fundraising gala, we had a total of three weeks to assemble the video. Munro coordinated with a local production team in Uganda to shoot interviews there, while just weeks before the gala, we were shooting with healthcare professionals in Vancouver. We assembled a cut using our footage and proxies from Uganda while the raw footage on a physical drive was being shipped to us across the Atlantic. Thanks to Munro’s detailed pre-production work, and our familiarity with creating videos together, what might have been a logistical nightmare ended up being a bit of a production dream.

“From when we shot it to first cut, I think Barbershop had a rough cut to us in two days. They delivered faster than they ever promised,” said Munro.

“When you have someone who you trust working with you, going back and forth on the edits, it’s like someone already running the first 5K for you in a 10K race,” she said.

However minuscule our contribution, we are endlessly proud of our involvement. Munro reported heaps of praise following the video screening at the gala, including from Mining4Life, who committed a further $3 million, after their initial $3 million donation just prior to this event.

Simply, we are grateful to have participated and worked side by side with BCCHF, who are doing their part to help save lives.

“We wanted to make sure we did something really great. The video stewarded the $6 million donation really well,” said Munro.

“They are great storytellers and really know how to bring everything together. I want to invest in that kind of talent in storytelling because it really helps bring these powerful stories to life.”