Groundbreaking Legacy app boosts staff-patient communication
Victoria Moore and Morag Cormack are co-founders of the world's first iPhone Legacy Organiser, which lets users record how they would like to be remembered and to plan ahead for their funeral and farewell. The app is being used by the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted to help facilitate conversations with patients.
Victoria tells us how the app came about, and the benefits it can bring to a healthcare setting
“A photo shoot.” The phrase conjures up a misty world of glamour and celebrity a million miles away from my usual daily routine of chiseling encrusted Cheerios off the kitchen floor and negotiating UN-style with a five-year-old about why they should keep their school uniform on.
Last year I was lucky enough to be contacted by 'Woman and Home' magazine for their New Directions business feature. The focus would be on women with traditional careers who, at a certain age (I’ll give you a clue: in another 23 years I’ll be a Beatles song), had completely refocused and launched their own business in the IT sector. As a qualified solicitor who had released an iPhone app called Legacy Organiser, I fitted the bill well.
Like many people, I had never modelled before and I hugely enjoyed my day at a photography studio in London surrounded by stylists, make-up artists and assistants. The results were amazing: I promise you I don’t actually look like that in real life. A friend said to me: “You look like a reject from Charlie’s Angels, but in a good way."
I had come up with the idea for the app while living in the Highlands of Scotland a couple of years ago. Here I met Morag (pictured above right with Victoria) my neighbour and now business partner. Mo and I both have young children and, having both been involved in business in the past, we started talking about new ideas.
At around the same time I had my own will drawn up. After going through this fairly anodyne process, I realised that although I could make financial and legal provisions, there was no obvious way to record information of great significance to me, such as major life events and private moments and songs, or to plan ahead for the more personal aspects of my funeral. Mo and I also realised that what happens to people's “digital estate” after their death, such as emails, photos, iTunes, games and blogs, was becoming a huge issue and one which our app could address.
The Legacy app enables users to record information about how they would like to be remembered and have their lives celebrated, and to plan ahead for all aspects of their farewell and funeral. Users can also record life-defining experiences, compile a bucket list or the soundtrack to their life to create their own “legacy”. This information can be used for personal reference only or passed on to loved ones.
For the past year, our app has been used in a groundbreaking collaboration with the Hospice of St Francis. Sarah Russell, the Director of Education at the Hospice of St Francis, spotted the 'Women and Home' feature and, realising that I lived only a short distance from the hospice (I had moved to Hertfordshire by this stage), contacted me about it. Staff use the app to promote dialogue during clinical consultation sessions. It is hoped that the partnership will demonstrate how this app can improve patients’ lives as they come to terms with their illness.
The response so far has been extremely positive. A patient said that it had sparked off conversations with her husband which may not have otherwise happened. She said: "It might sound sad but funnily enough it's been really enjoyable: looking at all our photos and selecting a few favourites for the app actually gave us some real laughs.”
Another patient recorded his biggest regret as losing contact with his son. This act led to a reconciliation between father and son.
Dr Ros Taylor, Director of the Hospice of St Francis, describes the app as "really easy to use". She added: "In meetings with patients we use it to reflect on key moments in their lives which then lead onto special conversations about hopes and dreams for the future.”
Kimberley McLaughin, the hospice's Director of Supportive Care Services, feels that because the app has not been specifically designed for those diagnosed with a serious illness it is "all the more useable". She added: "Memoirs like 'After I have gone' and 'Food for my funeral' provide useful opportunities to invite conversations that are often unvoiced."
When we came up with the idea for the app we did not envisage it being used for healthcare, and we are amazed and very proud of the new direction it has taken. The app's use in a healthcare setting was formally recognised when it was voted one of the top five Health Apps in the Vodafone Foundation Europe Awards 2013.
Our collaboration with the Hospice of St Francis also gave me the opportunity to see their inspiring work firsthand and, as a result, I have been volunteering there for the past few months, supporting the community engagement activity. As part of this, we are planning a variety of activities during Dying Matters Awareness Week, including an evening for GPs on 14 May as well as events in six of our shops. The Legacy app was also be free to download between 12-18 May in support of the week.
From a photoshoot model to a community engagement volunteer, it's been an amazing and unexpected journey. Given the theme of this year's Dying Matters Awareness week, which is "You Only Die Once", perhaps I am more Bond Girl reject than Charlie’s Angel!