It all started when lockdown restrictions were introduced mid March 2020. Klara’s founder’s arranged a series of Webinars with their client base made up of medical practice managers and practitioners throughout the US. Initially, the webinars were intended to be used as a tool to educate their clients on current features and best practices to implement throughout the pandemic.
With the public being advised not to leave their house, patient visits declined dramatically and the feedback coming through on the webinars was soon loud and clear – Klara needed to implement virtual appointments.
Up until this time, government regulation prevented Klara from exploring telemedicine as a feature however a pivotal change sparked by COVID-19 meant the restrictions were lifted. The race was on for Klara, and platforms of a similar nature to extend their service with video appointment functionality and fast.
Fatos Hoti, Engineering Manager at Klara tells the story how their Engineering team released a telemedicine feature in 6 days.
A little on Klara
Klara is an end-to-end virtual care platform that helps medical practices stay connected with their patients. It streamlines communication between patient, doctor and administration staff to save time by automating patient outreach, reducing no-shows and in doing so provides an experience that is miles more convenient and effective than traditional analogue methods.
Day 1: Tuesday, 17th March
Project Scope and Research
Fatos received a message from the VP of Engineering asking ‘is it possible to drop everything and have a working video call solution until the end of the week?’. The designers had created wireframes of user flows and the product manager had drafted requirements. It was then that Fatos kicked off a research task force to research possibilities and solutions.
PROJECT STATUS: 10% COMPLETE
Day 2: Wednesday, 18th March
Research and Project Setup
The company gathered for a virtual meeting with the Klara’s CEO where he announced that the company would drop everything to work toward producing a telemedicine solution for virtual visits with the go-live goal of Monday – less than a week away.
For Fatos that meant immediately gathering his team of Software Engineers (10), QA Engineers (2), Product Managers (1) and Product Designer.
Focus 1 – What are we going to build, and why?
A team of the most experienced engineers gathered for a meeting with a time limit of two hours. The meeting would clearly outline the business problem and aim to translate the solution into technical requirements.
The meeting produced four potential research paths evaluated in a time-boxed period of 90 minutes; Building from scratch would take too much time, OSS would require too much domain expertise and fully embedded solutions produced no options they could work with. So, it was decided they would work with an infrastructure provider.
‘We were set on building an integration of video conferencing infrastructure in Klara. By utilizing our messaging platform, authentication and workflow management capabilities we believed that we could deliver a worthy product to our customers hopefully on-time.’
Focus 2 – How will we build it?
At the time, it was decided that the group would split into two teams, each exploring a different provider solution. This way, there would be a backup plan if one of the options hit a roadblock.
Focus 3 – Align the team and prepare for project commencement.
Fatos prepared the teams for project commencement by setting up a JIRA epic, Slack channels, assigning team leads, defining communication norms and setting up video conferring rooms for remote collaboration.
In the afternoon, both teams were briefed on the gravity of the situation spurred by COVID. Clients needed a solution to keep their practices afloat and so Klara would need to come up with a solution to remain competitive.
“At this point I actually thought that was it for the day, but the most exceptional thing happened. A few engineers bit into the problem and finished up the base work (common data models, client facing APIs and prepared a hello world for both providers). It meant the next morning, we were ready to break ground.”
PROJECT STATUS: 20% COMPLETE
Day 3: Thursday, 19th March
The real work begins
Both teams working remotely at this time, the day began with a virtual sync up. Teams were given a clear explanation of the base work completed the night before. Then, the day would be split into two focus blocks.
Focus 1 – Review and deploy to remote environments
With a time limit set of two hours, the teams aimed to review and deploy the previous night’s work to remote development environments. Meanwhile, the management team met to do a quick analysis of the previous day’s draft solution. In two hours, the goal was achieved!
“The strategy was to set very short reachable goals as we needed to know immediately if something was going to be a dead end. Achievable goals were great for team morale, because you get a sense of accomplishment every few hours and the team would really thrive on that.”
Focus 2 – Deploy the happy path to remote working environments for both providers.
The time-block of four hours wasn’t achieved but a dedicated group of engineers kept at it and a solution was reached at 23:30.
The provider for team 2 still had not responded with the information they needed to proceed. To be able to reach the deadline, they needed all hands on deck. The difficult decision was made to scrap working on Team 2’s path and instead they would focus their efforts on testing Team 1’s option.
There was one more significant decision to make before signing off for the day. With the successful completion of happy path deployments, Fatos announced they would be committing to their Monday launch deadline. The announcement was made immediately on social media and it blew up – clients couldn’t be happier!
PROJECT STATUS: 35% COMPLETE
Day 4: Friday, 20th March
In the morning sync-up, the team was reminded of the decision to focus all effort’s on Team 1’s provider option.
“It was a really hard subject to broach. Team 2 had been working really hard on their option but without word from their provider we couldn’t continue wasting resources on an option that wouldn’t be ready on time. Team 2 inspired all of us, they set aside their feelings and redirected their focus on their new collective goal immediately”
After working huge hours for three days straight, the team were confident they would have a product ready to release and test on a few keen clients but it would mean a selection of the team would have to volunteer their work over the weekend.
“You can see that the team was enthusiastic but tired. I was surprised that everyone volunteered to work the weekend. A few persistent developers kept on until midnight for the third day in a row. We ended Day 4 with one bug left to fix and 3-4 PRs to merge before code completion”.
PROJECT STATUS: 75% COMPLETE
Day 5: Saturday, 21st March
Polishing – Hiring Guard
Here we are on Day 5, a motivated but exhausted team of developers pushing toward the finish line. Fatos leaves the weekend team to their devices with gently pushed focus blocks.
“We had a group of people remote pairing and testing each other’s code. This meant feedback in both written and spoken form making their way around on Slack or in the video rooms, it meant 1000s of commits flying around and a whole lot of confusion.”
To mitigate this, product feedback was gathered by the product manager and only then passed to engineers. With Saturday coming to an end, the video quality was still looking shaky and this needed to be fixed before Monday’s go-live.
PROJECT STATUS: 90% COMPLETE
Day 6: Sunday, 22nd March
The goal was clear for the day: ensure the product was ready for launch the next day. The team didn’t meet for their usual morning sync-up and instead went right to work toward a code-complete deadline of 17:00.
At 15:40, a huge sigh of relief came when the team called code-complete despite the video quality still remaining an issue.
“We had a tired team that had worked for days straight, we had a great product with one bug to be amended. At that time, we were ready to go live and very happy with the result and achievements of the collective. We had a virtual party, took the time to really thank the team and asked them to finally sign off for the week”.
The icing on the cake was that a sneaky group of engineers and QA’s continued to work on that one bug fix into the evening. By 17:30 the issue had been found, resolved and pushed to the MVP.
PROJECT STATUS: 100% COMPLETE ?
Within a few days of the launch, their client base was exceeding 1000 consultations a day and ~50% of their customers were using the virtual visit solution.
“What we’ve heard the most is that the ease of use is great because you don’t have to download an app and just use the browser. Elderly patients and doctors alike who don’t consider themselves to be tech-savvy find it much easier to use”.
By implementing video calls, Klara’s clients were able to stay afloat financially and continue to serve their patients safely.
“It was a trying time for the rest of the world and while health care workers were on the front line, it was obvious that the team’s motivation came from wanting to do their part in the situation”.
It’s one thing to embark on a project like this and another to complete it within 6 days. The success was testament to both the quality of engineers and commitment to using tech to better lives during what would be one of our generation’s most trying times.