Since the COVID-19 virus emerged in the U.S., the country’s health systems and hospitals have felt a significant strain on their resources and staff as they continue to face rising volumes of patients. Amid this chaos, many organizations have risen to the challenge, using technology to expand access and relieve some of the pressure on their limited resources. Here are some of the ways health systems are using technology to expand access to care during the pandemic:
- Providence St. Joseph Health, was one of the first health systems affected in the U.S., having cared for the first U.S. COVID-19 patient. Their three-pronged approach to dealing with this crisis—triage, test, and treat—began with a chatbot solution on their website. The chatbot asks patients a series of questions (e.g. symptoms, travel history, etc.) to determine their risk level for infection. Those at highest risk of infection are directed to seek immediate care, while other at-risk patients can be connected with the health system's nurse line telephone service or can schedule a telemedicine appointment on their telehealth platform, Providence Express Care.
- OSF HealthCare also is using chatbot technology to relieve pressure on their resources. Using their recently implemented GYANT COVID-19 virtual assistant solution, OSF is able to help patients better understand their risk for contracting the virus and navigate them to the appropriate type of care based on their symptoms. While OSF originally partnered with GYANT to create a better digital health experience for patients, usage rates of the virtual assistant, “Clare,” have increased significantly during the pandemic. Clare had 14,000 interactions about COVID-19 in the first two days since her coronavirus update, with 85% of patients using Clare reporting a positive experience.
- Northwell Health's investment in chatbot technology has helped them supplement call center patient outreach to free up nurses and call center staff, who normally would call patients with lab results. Running upwards of 1,000 tests a day, Northwell decided that their chatbot solution could help refer patients to testing where necessary and push out lab results in real time. In turn, this also helps alleviate the strain on nurses and call center staff so they may handle more complex issues such as answering patient questions.
- Houston Methodist’s Virtual Urgent Care service has experienced a significant increase in visits due to COVID-19—from 30–40 visits a day to 250–300. To help mitigate this surge, Houston Methodist created a second telehealth network on the Epic MyChart platform, allowing providers to integrate visits with a patient’s EMR. Ramping up its telehealth platforms has helped Houston Methodist to not only deal with this surge but also give patients with other non-COVID-19 needs the same access to virtual care as those with the virus.
- CommonSpirit Health has reimagined virtual care strategies not just for virus patients but for primary care as well. CommonSpirit has scaled virtual visits and AI-enabled assessments and screenings to millions of patients across 21 states in a matter of weeks. Technologies include free virtual care visits, chatbot self-assessments, automated screening and triage tools, and virtual primary care. During this time, they have also onboarded more than 3,000 physicians onto these platforms to ensure patients can access care safely from home.
We will continue to see health systems innovate during this time to reduce transmission of the virus, efficiently triage patients, protect those on the frontlines, and conserve critically needed supplies. Virtual assistants, virtual care, and other technologies are just the beginning of this new era of patient access.