Since the app’s initial launch, the response has significantly exceeded the Celiac Disease Program’s goals. Families love the app, and kids especially love the cooking videos.
Today, the app is the first interaction families have with the Celiac Disease Program. As soon as a person receives their diagnosis, Children’s National welcomes them to the program by sending a download link. As patients attend informational classes, instructors demo the app and show them how to access everything they might need when they’re in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or simply at home.
The app also allows parents to directly communicate with Children’s National. Instead of fumbling through searches to find contact information for the hospital, they can open the app and email or call a team on standby 24/7 to answer questions.
“It's a big success in that it has allowed our patients to have everything they need in one place, and makes it really easy for them to get the information that they need,” Vanessa said.
Their app has also allowed Children’s National to help kids and families outside of the Washington, D.C. metro area, and even outside the United States.
In one instance, Vanessa received an email from a Ugandan girl who suspected she had Celiac disease, but couldn’t find a doctor to give her a proper test.
Inspired to help, Vanessa started researching doctors in Uganda. After a week of difficult research, she finally found one who would consider seeing the girl — but had a very narrow appointment window.
“He sent me a message, saying, 'I will see the patient at 1:15 today,’” Vanessa said. “I saw this at five in the morning, East Coast time. I woke up my husband, and I was like, 'What time is it in Uganda?!'”
By the time Vanessa was able to contact the girl, it was too late. Before Vanessa could help her get another appointment, the girl had gotten a visa to visit Washington, D.C.
Children’s National helped her get the test, and she’s since become a friend and advocate of their program.
“It's been very cool to see how something we started to be a very local tool has turned into this very big and international resource for people,” she said.
Next up for Vanessa is working with BuildFire on two new projects. The first is licensing their app so other hospitals can share Children’s National Hospital’s Celiac content while customizing the look and feel with their hospital branding. The second is building a second app to train schools on managing kids with Celiac.
“I want people to know, don't be afraid of building an app because it sounds hard,” she said. “Because it's way easier than you think it would be.”