Healthcare Workers

Virtual triage can help patients, ease burden on hospitals

Published May 11, 2020

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in California, Blue Shield of California is helping reduce the burden placed on hospitals by the large influx of patients. The health plan is covering the costs for in-network hospitals to implement a new, customizable virtual triage tool. The tool, available on a hospital’s website, helps patients check their symptoms and receive recommendations on where to go for care.

Hospitals across the country are taking more calls and walk-ins as the COVID-19 crisis worsens. But a hospital visit might not always be necessary. In fact, it could unnecessarily expose patients and healthcare workers to the risk of infection. Giving patients a way to check symptoms and receive guidance on what to do before leaving the house could help keep hospitals ready for emergencies while ensuring all patients receive the appropriate level of care.

Like a hospital’s front desk, but from the safety of home

Patients can access the COVID-19 SERA (COVID-19 Screener and Emergency Response Assistant) virtual triage tool on a participating hospital’s website via smartphone, tablet or computer. The tool can be customized for each health system’s emergency response plan, and it’s updated in real-time with latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Blue Shield of California recognized the potential of this tool, developed by San Francisco-based tech company GYANT, to support patients and healthcare workers, so the health plan took action to provide it to in-network hospitals across California at no cost.

How virtual triage works

Patients access COVID-19 SERA on a hospital’s website, answer a few basic questions, and, based on their responses, are directed to the appropriate medical setting for their situation – technology made possible in part by artificial intelligence. The idea is to point patients to the most appropriate care setting, which could range anywhere from a telehealth appointment to an emergency room visit, enabling hospitals to better manage the inflow of patients.

Easing the process for patients and hospitals

“These are trying times for everyone and we believe this system can make a difference for hospitals as they do their best to provide medical care for patients,” says Terry Gilliland, M.D., executive vice president, Healthcare Quality and Affordability at Blue Shield of California. Statistics show many COVID-19 cases are not severe enough to require hospitalization. Ensuring only those patients who really need a hospital visit can help curb transmission of the virus.

Blue Shield of California is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of locally owned and operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Learn more about Blue Shield of California’s COVID-19 response.

GYANT, the patient connection and relationship management company, drives more meaningful patient-doctor engagements while improving care utilization and pathways. Leveraging its customizable, artificial intelligence-enabled platform, which integrates into any EHR system, GYANT creates easy to navigate and enjoyable experiences for patients that equate to cost and time savings, and improved patient conversion rates for health systems. GYANT’s unique combination of deep intelligence, physician oversight and a human-driven, empathetic approach allows health systems to solve for traditional complex care issues, ensuring that patients receive the right care – anytime and anywhere, increasing engagement, trust and loyalty along their entire healthcare journey.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 35 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.