Martinos Responds: ‘Community Help’ Website Brings People Together During a Time of Crisis

Gary Boas

As healthcare challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to mount, and patient care and hospital operations schedules grow increasingly busy, many direct care providers are finding ineeds t difficult to keep up with needs at home—grocery shopping, pet care or any number of other responsibilities.

The newly launched Mass General Brigham Community Help website offers a means to address these needs.

Created by Martinos researchers Benjamin Bearce and Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, both of the Quantitative Translational Imaging in Medicine (QTIM) lab in the Center, the website connects direct care providers with volunteers from the Mass General Brigham community who are working from home or otherwise have time to help because of workflow changes.

Here’s how it works: After authentication, visitors to the site can request help in one or more of four areas: transportation, shopping, pet care or in-house care. The site then shows volunteers in the same area and provides email addresses so the visitor can contact the volunteers.

Volunteers can indicate their willingness to help using the same portal.

The site launched last week and was quickly embraced by the Mass General Brigham community. A dozen people signed up in the first few hours after it was announced. As of April 23, the site had 158 registered users and 196 posts.

Bearce, a software developer in the QTIM lab, describes the process of creating the site as “a fun bundle of exploration and inventiveness.” he had to tackle and find creative solutions to an array of issues, including challenges that came with integrating cloud-based software for authentication, tiny hiccups in the Google Maps rendering software, and all of the unknowns of using a new JavaScript framework.

“I really enjoyed building the site,” he says. “And I’m still getting requests for new features, so that’s a sign that more can still be done!”