CommunO2 Uses OutSystems to Bring an End to Social Isolation at Scale

CommunO2 is on a mission to bring an end to social isolation—a rising problem for an aging population. Having developed and trialed a web-based community engagement application in partnership with Michigan's Otsego County Commission on Aging, the feedback was unanimous—"We want this, but it has to work on mobile devices."

CommunO2 then turned to OutSystems, and in half the time it had taken to build their hand-coded prototype, they launched a completely new mobile app. Now, CommunO2 is bringing an end to social isolation, one community at a time.

 

1 Developer instead of three

1 Developer instead of three

6 Months to go-live

6 Months to go-live

6x Faster development

6x Faster development

175 Participating organizations and growing

175 Participating organizations and growing

Joel Ackerman
“Responding quickly to user feedback is crucial to building the community. OutSystems gives us the ability to respond quickly, and launch high quality, easy to use features, with security and accessibility built-in.”Joel Ackerman, President, CommunO2 (Community Oxygen)

Creating Connections to a Cut-Off Population

Challenge - Social isolation is a reality for a rising population, including aging adults who want to “age in place” at home, as well as others with limited mobility. It’s an issue that Joel Ackerman, a baby boomer, and retired CIO, knew he too could soon be facing, yet one that he could uniquely help to solve.

He decided to build an app that would help combat social isolation by connecting people at home with all sorts of happenings in the community—from live faith-based services to one-on-one conversations with professionals. Using traditional JavaScript development, Joel, three developers, and a designer built a workable web-based application in one year.

It got the attention of Dona Wishart at Michigan’s Otsego County Commission on Aging (OCCOA), who was looking for a technology solution to social isolation. Together, they tested the app in the local community. The pilot proved the viability of the idea but uncovered the shortcomings of the web-based app. It needed to be mobile-first, easily updated to stay relevant for the long term, and easily adaptable to the unique requirements of each business, like multiple webcams, live walking tours, and video meeting capabilities.

The problem was that adapting the existing app would take too long and prove too difficult to make mobile and deliver customizations. A faster and better bet was to rebuild the app from scratch with OutSystems.

A Reimagined Experience Brings the Community Home

Solution - Joel learned about OutSystems through a former employee. Although it had been a long time since Joel was hands-on with technology himself, he was quickly able to learn the basics of the platform and produce production-quality code in a couple of days. Joel leaned on his friend as a technical resource but was able to build the new CommunO2 “SuperApp” by himself, in just six months. Since then, he has hired independent contractors with OutSystems experience to add additional capabilities as needed.

The reimagined app is mobile-first with one concurrent build for both Apple and Android devices. End users have single sign-on access to many community businesses and services that are otherwise inaccessible to people at home. Services provided by the CommunO2 SuperApp include:

  • Live-streaming of classes, services, and events
  • Video-based face-to-face engagement with community organizations of all types
  • A virtual file cabinet
  • Access to e-books and audiobooks
  • Virtual travel
  • Safe messaging
  • Telehealth/telemedicine, and more.

The app is multilingual and thanks to OutSystems Accessibility support, it’s designed for users that have impaired vision, hearing, or motor skills.

Rapid development enables CommunO2 to be responsive to special requests from business clients who want to tailor their services for remote end-users. CommunO2 can provide such customizations in a matter of days.

Businesses appreciate that flexibility. “Each organization can customize the site to their own individual needs, with no two organization site pages being the same,” said business client Jack Udebrock, Stewardship Chairman of Trinity Lutheran Church in Gaylord, Michigan.

What's more, with OutSystems, CommunO2 can continually update the app without disrupting end users. “The next time they open the app, the new features are immediately ready to use,” said Joel. Moreover, with 200 out-of-the-box security features built into the OutSystems platform, CommunO2 has the peace of mind that they provide end-users and community organizations the security they’d expect.

Eradicating Social Isolation at Double-speed

Results - Using OutSystems, CommunO2 rebuilt its app from scratch and made it much more robust and scalable in half the time using 1/3 of the developer resources. CommunO2 currently supports 175 participating organizations with immediate plans to expand to 500, serving 1 million end users.

CommunO2 is making a positive difference to the lives of people that had become socially isolated. For example, a user with multiple sclerosis with limited mobility was able to re-join the community. A user in an assisted living home who hadn’t seen her sister in 16 years was able to reconnect remotely. A socially isolated young girl was able to get more frequent attention and support from volunteers. Grandchildren, unable to travel to their grandfather’s funeral, were able to be “present” during the service. And grandparents who could not attend the wedding of a grandchild were delighted to attend virtually.

The reaction of local community care organizations has been extremely positive. “Being socially connected has a positive impact on physical and mental health, and the CommunO2 SuperApp brings the world to our residents where they live,” says Kory Hansen, CEO, Grand Traverse Pavilions. “Whether it’s the ability to connect to family and friends, virtually attend local events, or access a variety of activities, with the help of CommunO2 we envision our residents will continue experiencing life that they may have previously thought was no longer possible.”

Businesses and institutions can now extend their programs and services into people’s homes with a whole new digital way to reach wider audiences. CommunO2 can quickly turnaround special feature requests from clients that help personalize their digital service offerings. “Business clients can use technology as a tool to amplify the resources they are providing, and we’re able to break through some barriers of resistance to embracing technology because the SuperApp is so easy to use and affordable,” said Joel.

Because of the ease with which CommunO2 can keep its app up-to-date, it’s an easier buy-in for business clients. “As a client of CommunO2 , I asked that this technology not become antiquated, because we’ve seen solutions come and go,” explains Dona. “With this, each day, we have the opportunity to enhance and move our services forward, and that makes a big difference.”

CommunO2 has exciting enhancements in the pipeline. For example, integration to IoT sensors and telehealth devices. The app already supports 12 languages and is positioned to go international to help even more people, not just “age in place,” but “thrive in place.”

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