Many COVID-19 testing and assessment centres across Canada and the U.S. are struggling with increased call volumes, long patient wait times and overwhelmed administrative staff who are trying their best to manually book test appointments efficiently and manage safe patient flows while maintaining the necessary protocols. For many, it has also meant having to address this very quickly — either to comply with government mandates or to ensure the immense traffic flow in their environment is managed safely.
The Thames Valley Family Health Team, based in Southwestern Ontario, required a solution that would enable it to quickly make the transition to virtual tools and maximize COVID-19 assessment and testing work capacity for its region.
A Family Health Team (FHT) is a group of health professionals working together to deliver the very best patient care. With 115 physicians and more than 120 clinicians across 18 locations within London/Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin counties, Thames Valley FHT is one of the largest FHTs in the province, providing team-based primary healthcare to more than 158,000 patients.
Beyond family physicians, Thames Valley FHT includes registered nurses, nurse practitioners, registered practical nurses, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, occupational and respiratory therapists, psychologists, and administrative staff — all working together to provide comprehensive care.
Like other organizations offering health services, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Thames Valley FHT to rapidly transition to a model that would allow its staff to offer different and alternative care models, including the use of virtual tools and remote work.
“As a result of the pandemic, we’ve been engaged to provide new care services for our community. In partnership with London Health Sciences Centre, Public Health and EMS, we’ve become a lead organization for COVID-19 assessment centres in the London-Middlesex region,” explained Jill Strong, Director of Operations at Thames Valley FHT. “We operated on a walk-in basis for testing and assessment, a model that was largely successful up until demand for testing exceeded our assessment centres’ capacities. Additionally, tight government-mandated timelines required us to transition from walk-in to booked appointments within 72 hours.”
Thames Valley tried to manage these changes manually, but the phone system and staff soon became overwhelmed with the volume of calls and patients seeking testing. Moving appointment booking and pre-screening online appeared to be a good option, but they needed an easy-to-use digital solution that could be quickly implemented without disrupting patient care.
“Verto Health came highly recommended as a reputable digital solutions provider with extensive healthcare experience and significant integration functionality,” Strong said.
After evaluating multiple vendors, Thames Valley FHT selected Verto Health’s COVID-19 Appointment Booking, Pre-Screening and Assessment Centre Capacity Optimization Solution. The offering allows patients to book appointments and conduct pre-screening online, while providing staff members with real-time visibility and a dashboard that monitors safe patient flow. Assessment centres can confirm patient health information seamlessly — dynamically managing patient consent for email, SMS, and phone communications and engagement.
All content and workflows within the solution are configurable to fit customers’ needs, making it flexible and ensuring it provides the functionality and tools required to meet individual requirements.
The user-friendly functionality of the Verto Health platform has resulted in positive patient feedback regarding both the system and Thames Valley FHT’s transition from walk-in to online booking, Strong noted.
“Using Verto Health’s solution for online booking has assisted greatly in stabilizing patient flow, which is very valuable with the high volumes we have been seeing at each of our assessment centres in the community,” she said. “The online booking platform also provides an additional opportunity for us to communicate with our patients about the criteria for which testing and assessments are being offered. This is very valuable because this has been an ongoing challenge for patients, especially as criteria have changed often during the pandemic.”
The ability to control and quickly change the number of available appointments within their system has allowed Thames Valley FHT to augment its modes of access to services. For example, the FHT can now allocate capacity to underserved populations that don’t have access to telephone or online booking.
The quick turnaround time to have the solution in place — three days from beginning to end — was also a great benefit, which allowed Thames Valley FHT to be up and running with its digital solution rapidly.
“The process was exceptional,” Strong said. “The Verto Health team members we worked with are highly skilled and knowledgeable which ensured a smooth process and successful delivery of a quality product in the timeline agreed upon.”
Since its initial implementation, Thames Valley FHT continues to onboard additional assessment centre locations onto the Verto Health platform, with plans to increase the options and criteria for patient screening and to adopt QR code “touchless” functionality.
“As government mandated testing and reporting requirements continue to evolve, it’s great to know that we’ve selected a solution that is configurable and allows us to quickly adapt to those changing requirements,” said Strong.