Helping patients communicate during COVID-19

Vishal Roy
4 min readApr 17, 2020

I don’t need to say anything about the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. We are all aware of it and it. But what many of us don’t know is what happens to the people who are found positive with the virus. Or what happens to them who were living with the one who was found to be positive.

Well, there are two scenarios :

  1. You’re home quarantined
  2. You’re quarantined in a hospital

If you’re the first one, then it’s good for you. You’re still in the comfort of your home and have access to your personal stuff. Therefore you can watch videos, play games, call & chat with your friends and family members to make the quarantine boredom go away.

But in the majority of the cases, you’re the second one. Once you’re found positive with the COVID-19 you’re immediately shifted to a special hospital with a group of ready to action medical staff. Since there are so many patients adding up each day, you won’t find yourself in a very fancy hospital room with all the comfort. And in maximum countries, you’re not allowed to carry your personal gadgets into the quarantine area.

🔔 So this is exactly the point where the issue comes up.

Just a few days ago one of my good friends contacted me. He owns an IT company and they are setting up all the network equipment and necessary stuff in hospitals being built for the corona patients. This is what he said to me —

Hey Vishal, we are setting up all the IT stuff in the hospitals. But we have got one problem in between. The hospital has a capacity of around 600 patients, and we need to have something to let them communicate with their families & friends. So we decided to use Android tablets for communication via video calling. Of course, we can’t have 600 tablets for 600 patients.

And at the time we are able to arrange only 30 tablets, and we are just hoping for the shipment to arrive. Yeah, the patients would have to share the tablets. But the problem is that we can’t compromise with someone’s privacy. We don’t want to let one patient see the video call number of the other patients. Video calls would be made only via WhatsApp. So can you make something which can keep the data private and still let the patients communicate?

My exact reaction after hanging up the call ☎️

After thinking for about a minute, I had the plan. So what I came up with is to use an android Kiosk Launcher with an app that can directly make video calls to a WhatsApp phone number.

Since this project was really on the highest priority, I had to put aside my ongoing personal projects for a while. Finally, I started making the WhatsApp Video Caller app. Yes, this is exactly what I named it. On the first day, I completed the UI of the app which needed to be as minimal as possible and should be Granny-Safe.

This is what I finally came up with 🙂

Although this screenshot is taken from my phone, the app is compatible with tablets.

Now it’s time to make it functional. To make the video calling experience really private we have a few things to consider :

  1. In the Kiosk launcher, there shouldn’t be any option to directly open WhatsApp and Settings (Which was easy to do).
  2. When someone clicks the “Start Video Call 📹” button, it should directly pop up the video calling screen. Or there shouldn’t be any other screen involved while doing this.
  3. The point down arrow button on the WhatsApp video calling screen needed to be disabled. For me, it’s a loophole to directly access the chat section.

Starting from scratch, it took 4 days and 6 commits to make a ready-to-use version of this app.

Here’s the progress ;)

You might have guessed it by now. Yes, it’s ready, free to use for anyone and it’s Open-Source.

Well, the decision was all mine to make it open source. There are thousands of hospitals where everyone is facing situations like this. So why not help reduce one of their to-dos for free.

So if you’re a developer and you have been given the same kinda problem to take down, feel free to use my repository as per your needs. Even If you want to contribute to the project, feel free to do so.

Thanks for reading through this article! If you enjoyed it, please click the 👏 button & feel free to leave your response below.