A new digital tool that helps hospitals efficiently triage the surge of patients seeking advice and information on COVID-19 produced significant results over a five-month period for 55 hospitals that are part of Blue Shield of California’s provider network.
In March, the “COVID-19 Screener and Emergency Response Assistant” (COVID-19 SERA) was offered to Blue Shield’s in-network providers at no cost as the pandemic escalated. Bay Area company GYANT produced the online service that’s placed on the hospitals’ web page with artificial intelligence care-navigation assistants to help connect patients with the care and digital tools that they need. The software is customized to each hospital and implemented within 48 hours. It is updated in real-time with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
The tool was deployed in 28 counties throughout California.
One of the most significant results emerging from the effort was a dramatic reduction in the volume of calls to the participating hospitals’ nurse help lines. Health systems using the tool reported up to a 30 percent decrease in calls as patients utilized the COVID-19 SERA system for care guidance or information.
“The GYANT tool made a major difference for our network hospital systems and their patients during this difficult time,” said Terry Gilliland, M.D., executive vice president, Healthcare Quality and Affordability at Blue Shield of California. “All those nurses who were previously overwhelmed with phone calls were able to return to the front lines to care directly for patients surging into their hospitals.”
The major health systems in the pilot were Common Spirit Health, including Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives; Memorial Care; Adventist Health; and Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.
“During this pandemic, hospital support center teams have been overwhelmed with calls from worried patients. We are proud of the results our tool produced for Blue Shield’s network hospitals, and our contribution to alleviate this strain during this difficult time,” said Stefan Behrens, chief executive officer at GYANT.
Here is a topline summary of the program results in the first five months of the implementation:
- 50,207 people used the online triage tool
- More than half (54 percent) went through the full screening process (vs. just using the FAQs), with nearly 90 percent completing the screening process
- Among those who completed the screenings:
- 17 percent received patient education/information
- 68 percent were referred to a provider (e.g. telehealth or triage center)
- 16 percent were either sent to the ER or told to call 911