“I met a doctor via chat, and he provided good help, very nice.”
In the spring of 2021, the Västernorrland region enlisted the help of Platform24 to provide its residents with a central digital front door to health care as a complement to contact via telephone alone. In connection with that, HC Centrum in Sundsvall has had the opportunity to offer over 13,000 registered patients a digital entrance directly to the healthcare center. HC Centrum has previously offered patients certain healthcare services via video chat, but according to Malin Nilsson, director of HC Centrum, it was time to take another step in digitalizing the healthcare journey.
“We needed to try new ways of working in order to more effectively care for an aging population but with the same workforce as before”
Since April 2021, the healthcare center has had a link on 1177 (Sweden’s on-line primary healthcare service) that takes patients to the digital solution delivered by Platform24. When patients call HC Centrum, those who have mobile Bank-ID (electronic identification) are encouraged to choose the digital front door. First, the patient is asked to answer questions about their main health concerns and is automatically guided to the appropriate level of care. The patient is correctly led according to their healthcare needs. Close to a quarter of those who choose the digital front door are led to an automatically generated self-care plan, the remaining are transferred to a digital chat with a nurse for further assessment. Those patients who receive a self-care plan can also choose to continue further to chat digitally with a nurse at the healthcare center. The nurse can transfer the patient to a digital meeting with a doctor or physiotherapist, if necessary. If the case requires a physical meeting, an appointment is booked.
According to Malin, there is a clear trend of more and more patients choosing the digital solution to contact the healthcare center. Malin notes that as the number of digital cases has increased, the time nurses spend on the phone has decreased.
“We use Platform24 as a digital reception to assess patients’ care needs. It has helped us to fulfill the healthcare guarantee to our patients. All cases determined by a nurse to require a patient-physician interaction are transferred to a platform that places patients in a drop-in queue where physicians meet the patients with the highest-priority care needs first. Before we employed the digital platform, acute cases might not be handled until the end of the day – now the cases are managed in order of urgency,”
Malin Nilsson, Region Västernorrland
Platform24’s solution helps the healthcare providers at the center perform an initial case assessment, and frequently cases are managed and resolved digitally in the platform saving a lot of time for both patients and healthcare providers. Right from the start, the staff at the healthcare center experienced a reduction in workload as a quarter of the patients who chose the digital front door were satisfied with the self-care plan they received and chose not to continue to a meeting. It saves time when the nurses do not need to be on the phone unnecessarily and frees up time for patients with greater care needs. The solution also reduces the number of unnecessary visits. For example, consider a meeting to determine if a referral to laboratory testing is needed. This assessment can now be performed digitally, and a referral can be sent to the lab. An appointment with the physician can then be booked once the test results are received.
-We performed a test weekend for the healthcare center’s on-call service to see how many of the cases that occur outside regular opening hours could be managed digitally. The test weekend showed that 75 percent of the cases could be managed digitally, Malin reports.
The new digital approach delivered by Platform24 has led to a much more efficient workflow for nurses. From initially being able to handle just under ten visits a day per nurse, the healthcare center can today help 30 patients per nurse. The number of physician visits per week increased by over 70 percent.
The new digital front door to the healthcare center has also meant greater freedom for healthcare professionals. For example, nurses can sometimes work from home. Malin believes that the solution provided by Platform24, which frees personnel from being bound by location, improves the work situation for healthcare professionals and makes the healthcare center a more attractive employer.
“When we implemented Platform24, everything became easier for the nurses. When we are using the phone, we do not know what is coming in on the lines. In the platform, cases come in and are categorized – the most urgent cases are placed first in the queue. As a nurse, you feel that your time goes to the patient who needs it most here and now,” Malin explains.
Malin adds that now that the staff has used the solution for a period of time, they absolutely do not want to return to how it was before.
“I met a doctor via chat, and he provided good help, very nice.”
“Very convenient with the app.”
“The ease of receiving an SMS with a link.”
“Quick, efficient and informative. Appointment booked in 10 minutes via chat.”
“The system is very simple and easy to work with.”
“Gives us tools to assign cases to physicians for assessment.”
The digital front door has also been an appreciated change for many patients. The healthcare center has received positive feedback from the patients in the platform and has a rating of 4 on a scale of 1-5 when it comes to patient satisfaction in the digital entrance. Responses to HC Centrum’s own patient questionnaire reveal that the majority think the process has been quick and are satisfied with the experience and that the patients consider it “extremely easy” to “very easy” to get the help they wanted.
“It isn’t just us as healthcare providers who are changing our working methods. This is a new approach for the patients as well. The greatest challenge has been convincing the patients that the digital front door is the most efficient entrance to health care. When a patient is familiar with handling their healthcare concerns in-person, it can take a while to adjust and feel confidence in managing many healthcare issues digitally.” Malin explains.
“We have maintained good availability despite occasional unforeseen absences. Normally, an emergency department can receive two patients per hour – through the platform we have been able to receive up to five patients per hour. This doubling has occurred as we have been able to work more efficiently with Platform24 while providing the same high quality of care,” Malin continues.
The patients who use the digital front door are predominantly women between the ages of
Malin feels that the support provided by Platform24 in the form of the system’s use and its functions has worked smoothly and been valued by the staff. During the implementation of the solution, Platform24 trained colleagues at HC Centrum to become so-called super-users–these super-users have, according to Malin, been very helpful during the journey as they have been close at hand in daily operations whenever a question has arisen.
Malin hopes that eventually, the digital front door will become the natural first choice for patients contacting healthcare providers. In the future, the solution will automatically triage the patients directly to the appropriate level of care, which further streamlines healthcare cases for both staff and patients.
Malin Nilsson’s four tips for other providers who are considering a digital front door to health care services: