Are British health officials collaboration with Facebook to place Portal video call screens in hospitals, care homes and other facilities. Facebook will donate up to 2,050 portals, starting with a pilot program in Surrey and extending to Manchester, Newcastle, London and other areas. They are intended to enable residents to communicate with loved ones they cannot see during the pandemic, as well as to coordinate on-site employees with remote workers and support telecare.
The tech-focused NHSX agency announced the news yesterday. In a statement, Freddy Abnousi, head of health technology at Facebook, said the company built Portal to “provide people with an easy way to connect and be more with their loved ones,” and with global pandemic and social distance measures , the ability to stay connected is more important than ever. ‘
First released in 2018, Portal is a standalone screen that makes video calls via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. It can be more convenient than pulling out a phone to make a call and it has a wide angle lens that can automatically zoom in on subjects. It’s one of Facebook’s first attempts to use a mainstream hardware product, but before the pandemic, it was haunted by trust and privacy concerns.
The hospital environment could be less problematic than a home if it treats the Portal as a resource and not an always-on device. On the other hand, Facebook’s integration into a government health service can pose unknown complications. NHSX says facilities will be selected based on how well their Wi-Fi connectivity can support the portal, for example, which could exacerbate any kind of digital divide. In the long term, NHSX is ‘exploring connectivity options’ for healthcare institutions without Wi-Fi, including hotspots or data-enabled tablets.