How Memorial Health System, Health First are transforming the traditional waiting room with Zero-Contact Intake

Hospitals and health systems' adoption of new technologies, ranging from virtual care to contactless check-in solutions, has spiked amid the COVID-19 pandemic, giving patients and providers safer alternatives to traditional care delivery.

In March, Phreesia launched a Zero-Contact Intake solution that has been implemented by various hospitals and health systems across the U.S., including Marietta, Ohio-based Memorial Health System and Rockledge, Fla.-based Health First. Using Phreesia's mobile platform, the technology provides a contactless registration and two-way texting platform for patients and providers to reduce the face-to-face interactions that occur during the traditional patient intake process and waiting room experience.

During a July 22 virtual workshop hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Phreesia, industry leaders discussed how Zero-Contact Intake has helped improve both the patient and clinician experiences and why use of the technology will likely persist at hospitals and health systems even after COVID-19.

The speakers were:

  • Missy Fleeman, director of patient access at Memorial Health System
  • Dough McKee, MD, chief medical information officer at Health First
  • Briana Kearney, senior director of market development at Phreesia

Here are five takeaways:

1. COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of contactless or virtual waiting rooms. Health First and Memorial Health System both turned to Phreesia for its Zero-Contact, Intake solution. At Memorial, one area Ms. Fleeman said they applied the contactless process to was the OB department, which allows patients to complete their registration in their car and then wait in the hospital’s parking lot with their significant others until a nurse comes out to take their temperatures and walk them inside.

2. Zero-Contact Intake promotes patient safety. Both Memorial Health System and Health First have received positive feedback from patients about how Phreesia has helped them feel safer. At Health First's ambulatory clinics, Phreesia allows patients to check in and finish registration from home, in the car or outside of the waiting room. Patients receive a text when the office is ready for them to enter the exam room.

"It's been very successful for us," Dr. McKee said. "In fact, one patient told us 'I didn't have to touch anything, and I felt safer.' And truly, that's a huge statement because we really want patients to feel safe and understand they can come in for these appropriate situations."

3. Electronic patient intake also keeps staff safe. In addition to supporting patient safety, Phreesia has also helped improve provider and staff safety. Both Dr. McKee and Ms. Fleeman said the contactless patient intake allows staff to feel more reassured of their safety and ability to keep working. Ms. Kearney explained that while the patient experience often takes primary focus, staff safety is important as well. Registration staff, for example, play an integral role from a revenue cycle and customer service standpoint and need to be protected.

"Registration staff are that friendly, smiling face—the first person who greets patients when they walk in the door—and they play such an important role," Ms. Kearney said. "These zero-contact workflows are important for keeping that team safe and comfortable, giving them more capacity, and automating a lot of their work so they can focus on higher-fidelity tasks in a safe working environment."

4. Contactless workflows reduce administrative burdens. While Phreesia has helped Memorial Health System and Health First prioritize safety during the pandemic, it has also helped restore time in staff members' workdays. "The staff really look forward to viewing their dashboard each day and seeing how many patients have completed their intake because they know it frees up time to do all the other tasks that we ask of them," Ms. Freeman said. "They don't feel as rushed and are able to give more time to the patient whether that's on a phone call or in person."

5. Zero-contact patient intake and virtual waiting rooms will persist post-pandemic. This technology has allowed healthcare providers to "leap forward into the modern user interface that people expect," Dr. McKee said, comparing the contactless intake experience to that of waiting for a table at a restaurant with a device that buzzes and alerts the person to return when their table is ready. "This is a similar type of experience as opposed to that drudgery of sitting in a waiting room next to somebody coughing when you're in for your yearly physical and you're healthy and you're looking at the stereotypical five-year-old magazine," he said. "That experience is not something that anybody wants people to have and it's not what people want to have."

Click here to listen to a recording of the workshop.

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