Delivering ‘In App Context’ for Families at Ronald McDonald House Charities, Toronto

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Providing ‘home away from home’ experiences.

It goes without saying that life is incredibly difficult for families with a seriously ill child. A scenario undoubtedly compounded by the need to relocate to a new city when seeking treatment. This is why, since 1981, it’s been Ronald McDonald House Charities’ (RMHC) mission to provide a home away from home for these families.

Recognizing that coming to a new city and moving into a new place for the first time can be overwhelming, especially after receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, RMHC committed  to improving the experience. Teaming up with Flybits in 2016, the two organizations set out to create a new and innovative way to help families familiarize themselves with the House, the neighborhood, and communicate both with RMHC as well as other families.

“...we had to make sure we created an app that was easy and intuitive and answered the critical questions, particularly about the external environment.”

- Sally Ginter, RMHC Toronto CEO

Leveraging the power of contextual intelligence

Together, in 2017, Flybits and RMHC built an app from scratch and launched the “Virtual Front Desk,” which families can download on the App Store and Google Play. Today, in addition to what they first set out to achieve, the app is also used to:

  • Answer FAQs
  • Provide a staff directory
  • Offer real-time directions to local resources
  • Send notifications
  • Access the facility’s event calendar
  • Read the menu for the evening’s dinner
  • Enter raffles for sporting events that are available.

What’s more, using contextual-based intelligence and targeting, the Virtual Front Desk can even send personalized notifications based on location. Making it possible to send a message to a family member as they arrive at the house in the evening to wish them a good night or recommend a restaurant nearby.

“Virtual Front Desk improves how we communicate with the families we support,” said Sally Ginter, RMHC Toronto CEO. “It helps them get the information they need, when they need it, regardless of where they are.

Protecting families’ privacy​

Toronto is the largest House in Canada, having served 4,735 families in 2018 alone. Given the sensitive nature of the identities of the families staying with RMHC, Flybits was careful to protect the privacy of people using Virtual Front Desk. Registration is not required to use the app and, as such, no personal information is recorded. Rather, the app relies on device-specific information to determine location to provide personalized experiences. 

The Kim Hill Award​

In 2018, RMHC Toronto received the prestigious Kim Hill Award in recognition of their innovative work, the impactful experiences the Virtual Front Desk has had on families, and for being the first of its kind. The Award is presented at RMHC’s global conference once every two years.

“The entire team at Flybits is honoured to have been able to partner with RMHC to help ease the stay for families during this incredibly challenging time in their lives. We are so proud to have contributed in a meaningful way and are thrilled to see the Toronto House receive this amazing global award,” said Dr. Hossein Rahnama, CEO of Flybits.

The Kim Hill Award Honors the daughter of Fred and Fran Hill, who inspired the creation of the world’s first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia in 1974.

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