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How a group of healthcare professionals in Quebec tapped Samsung Canada to connect isolated people and their loved ones

Originally appeared in the Spring-Summer 2021 edition of Le Point en Santé in partnership with Tous Ensemble.


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, health care management consultant Myriam Denault-Bois had been pondering a career change. But in late March, as coronavirus infections surged, she read an article that inspired a newfound purpose while her work was on hold.


In the article, an ICU physician recounted the medical version of solitary confinement, an experience that COVID-19 patients face as hospitals banned visitors. The doctor’s words had a profound impact on Denault-Bois, who set out to help sick patients in Quebec connect with their families. Through an initial partnership with a telecommunication company and then with Samsung Canada, she, a physician and a team of medical students, implemented a tablet initiative at dozens of hospitals, retirement centres and long-term care homes across the province. Here, Denault-Bois explains how the undertaking known as “Tous Ensemble” came to fruition.


When the pandemic began, what technology challenges did hospitals face?

Sometimes, simply not having enough tools to connect patients with their families. Even when hospitals did have tablets, they often just sat on a desk. Health-care workers didn’t have the time, manpower or knowledge to implement a program.


How did you get the program off the ground?

I asked for tablet and smartphone donations from family and friends on social media. Pretty quickly I had 20 devices. Together with Dr. Tamara Mijovic of McGill University Health Centre and Antoine Denis, a McGillmedical school student, we set up the devices with communication apps. We also created a digital instruction manual for the tablet and installed an app to allow for remote control. After a couple days, we supplied this first batch of donated devices to a hospital in Montreal.


The project picked up steam under the leadership of an ICU social worker. We managed to secure an initial partnership with a telecom company to expand across the province. After two months, we were in more than a dozen hospitals and about 100 long-term care homes and residences.


But we were in need of more and better tablets. Plus, we couldn’t keep volunteering for endless hours. When a few organizations reached out to offer funding, we looked for a new tech partner. That’s when we found Samsung.


How did Samsung enhance the program?

The Galaxy Tab A 8.4”, 8.0” and 10.1” tablets are easier to use than our previous devices, come with more recent operating systems and more powerful processing speeds. They have long-lasting batteries and work well on hospital WiFi and with mobility packages. Not only that, but Samsung worked with us to get the tools we needed at an affordable price point. Since July 2020, we have secured hundreds of tablets quickly at a great discount. It has given us the power to expand the program as the pandemic evolves. Samsung is our best industry partner, making incredible efforts to always support us as best as they can.


What are the most memorable moments of connection with Tous Ensemble?

One woman in an intensive care unit was proposed to not once, but twice. She said “yes” the first time in the ICU, but after recovering somewhat and deteriorating again, she sadly forgot about the proposal. Hospital staff encouraged the man to propose again using one of the Tous Ensemble tablets and she said yes. We hear many stories and some of them stand out like this one, but most of them we will never hear about. We do know that thousands of video calls were made on the tablets, bringing so many Quebec families together through these difficult times. Some happy, and some deeply sad. We cannot, however, begin to understand how much each one of those calls meant to patients and their loved ones, and that is what has been keeping us working long hours for the past year.


What do you want people to learn from Tous Ensemble?

The pandemic has really shone a light on societal inequalities and the importance of technology. I hope more people, including corporations and governments, take inspiration from initiatives such as Tous Ensemble and from the generosity of Samsung, to make lasting change not only in health care, but all spheres of society.