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Smartphone app speeds registration
Patients send in basic info before arrival
More and more, it seems, EDs are harnessing the power of the digital world to make their operations more efficient and to enhance patient services. In the Denver area, that trend now includes a smart phone application that enables patients to register before they get to the hospital.
Called iTriage, the free app (available for Android, Blackberry, and Apple phones) was developed by members of an emergency physician group and is now being piloted by Porter Adventist Hospital and Littleton Adventist Hospital. "The patient can type their symptoms in, and the app can provide some direction as to where they might get care; for example, it might recommend an urgent care center," explains Ahmed Stowers, MD, medical director of the Porter ED, a business partner of the physicians who developed the app. "If it tells the patient they should go to the ED, it also provides a list of those closest to the patient."
If the patients choose Porter, for example, they can notify the ED, much like an ambulance call-ahead. "They type in information for the registration clerk, who gets them pre-registered," notes Stowers. When the registrars are alerted, they page the charge nurses and let them know they have received a message from iTriage. The charge nurses let the triage nurses know, and they in turn notify the attending physicians.
Roxana Newton, CHAA, patient access supervisor, says, "We instantly get a fax with the patient's name, date of birth, reason for the visit, basic insurance information, and if they have any allergies. It's a kind of heads-up for the ED to know what to expect. If it is vital that the patient be seen right away, that can be anticipated based on their history."
As an ED medical director, Stowers appreciates such a heads-up. "We can prep the ED if they have a specific issue like gynecology or ENT," he notes. "It allows me to manage my resources: staffing, room traffic, and so on."
Just last week, an elderly patient with a nosebleed was brought in by her daughter. "The daughter had previously looked up iTriage and, noting that her Mom was on Coumadin, realized it would not be good to take her to urgent care and instead brought her here because we were equipped to deal with problem," Stowers says. "We had a 10-15 minute warning, so when she got here we took her right back to the ENT room and we were able to get her problem taken care of."
Newton says, "It's been pretty useful, and I think business will be picking up. It's very helpful for the registration staff as well as for the patient." Because the patient's basic information can be viewed before they arrive, "once they do arrive it takes mere seconds to get them to be seen," she says. "It does not hold the process up at all."
Stowers agrees that the app has made life easier for his staff. "With all the electronic stuff we have in the department, it's tough to get it all done on the fly, and iTriage just moves some of it outside of the ED and into somebody's home," he explains.
The community was notified of the new app through the Porter web site, which includes a link to iTriage. "In addition, if you Google it or go to some health web sites, a link for iTriage will appear," Stowers says.
The system just received an update, Stowers adds. "Starting yesterday, patients were also able to see what our wait times are," he says. (Little staff training was required to prepare for the introduction of the app. See the story below.)
For more information on using smart phone applications, contact:
Roxana Newton, CHAA, Patient Access Supervisor, Porter Adventist Hospital, Denver. Phone: (303) 765-6545.
Ahmed Stowers, MD, ED Medical Director, Porter Adventist Hospital, Denver. Phone: (303) 778-5666.
App requires little training
There was no need for extensive training to prepare the ED staff at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver for the introduction of a new iPhone app called iTriage, says Roxana Newton, CHAA, patient access supervisor.
The managers had a small amount of training from the emergency physician group, which had developed the application, "and I trained the staff," Newton says. "It's very simple to work with and easy to learn."
The initial class, which lasted about 30 minutes, covered issues such as what the patients see when they use the app, what the registration staff can expect to see when the information is received in the ED via fax, and what to do when they receive the faxes, such as notify the charge nurse.