28 April 2020
From physical to digital reception with Doctrin’s care navigation platform
Per and Marlene Midtvedt run a health centre in Strömstad, located southwest of Sweden. Per and Marlene had already started digitalising their business but accelerated that shift due to Covid-19. Today, 90 percent of patients get help digitally, and the clinic handles 30-40 cases daily, mainly via chat.
Per and Marlene began the digitalisation of their health centre in the summer of 2019, partly to meet the demand of summer guests who previously had a habit of seeking care digitally elsewhere. When the coronavirus spread, the health centre was close to switching to a digital platform, even for the older patient groups and the patients who do not have Swedish as their first language.
Do you want to start by telling us about your health centre and the patients who seek care from you?
We are a total of 28 full-time employees with 4,600 listed patients, which may seem to be a relatively large number of staff. This is because our patient group has quite broad care and communication needs, which differ from the average patient. A large proportion of patients are over 80 years of age, many with multiple illnesses and chronic problems. We also have many patients with a foreign background who do not speak Swedish natively and therefore have special communication needs. Continuity and accessibility of care are, therefore, vital for our patients.
You offered digital care before Covid-19. How did the pandemic affect your digital development?
Strömstad has 13,000 residents but increases during the summer to about 90,000 inhabitants. We chose to digitise the business in the middle of the summer of 2019 to meet the onslaught of patients who visit us during the summer months. The majority of summer visitors are from Stockholm and Norway. For these groups, it was natural to contact healthcare centres digitally. Therefore it was close at hand for us to expand our contact channels with a digital input. Since the summer, we have had about 12-15 cases per day and since many of our patients are multi-visitors, we need to be able to contact them for follow-ups and health checks. Since we connected with care-initiated contact; we now handle about 30-40 cases per day.
There are misconceptions that care in digital channels is not suitable for the elderly or patients with a foreign background. But with the help of Doctrin, those stereotypes have been proven to be wrong. Writing in the chat is much easier than talking on the phone. It gives the patient the time that they need to respond fully or get help from a relative or friend. We should also not underestimate the elderly. Many, for example, already handle their banking or online shopping. Once they understand how to do it, they are entirely comfortable with also accessing their care digitally.
I understand that you replaced your physical drop-in reception with a digital reception. How has it affected your working methods, and what response have you received from the patients?
Today, we can help 90 percent of patients digitally, including elderly patients. We also have an emergency list for those patients who need an immediate visit. We take care of everything else via telephone, chat, or video calls.
A significant difference we have seen is when we have the opportunity to follow-up with the patients digitally. Before we used Doctrin’s platform we sent out information to the patients regarding a follow-up non-digitally. Sometimes patients would claim that they had not received the follow-up information, or even neglected reading it, and therefore made the process much more time-consuming and difficult.
The follow-up process is now incredibly smoother than when we sent test results. Today, we receive a message that the patient has read the results. Previously, contact was limited to the consultation itself, we can now have ongoing communication with the patient, which, not least for our chronically ill patients, is very valuable.
You lose something in not meeting physically, but in our experience, you gain so much more. One of the many consequences of the coronavirus is that the conditions for physical care are limited.
How has corona affected you regarding what reasons patients seek care for and how you conduct it?
We notice a great deal of concern among patients. Almost everyone who calls or contacts us digitally mentions corona in some way. They express concern about symptoms or want to know how to act to protect relatives, for example. However, not many people have such severe symptoms that they need to see a doctor and get a consultation digitally.
Have the search causes in the patients seeking care with you changed during the corona pandemic? Excluding patients with corona symptoms.
Our experience is that many patients are waiting to seek care for concerns other than corona. It is therefore less than average for many search causes. That is why we need to maintain the capacity and accessibility for our “regular” patients to avoid an uphill climb after the summer.
Which of the changes you have made due to Covid-19 will be temporary, and what do you think we will continue to see even after the spread of the coronavirus has slowed down?
We had a plan to be fully digital five to six years in the future. With Covid-19, we have, for better or worse, been forced to make that change much earlier than expected. Even if the coronavirus is temporary, the digi-physical approach will remain. The transition to a digital journey cannot be, and should not be, reversed. On the contrary, we will integrate more and more physical care into digital working methods. We are also happy and proud to have such change-prone staff who have adopted to the new ways of working. We did feel some concern about staff opinions before we announced that we would switch to fully digital reception, but when we announced the news at the staff meeting, we were met with an exclusively positive response. No doubt about it, the staff empathised with the situation and started working in the new way. Now we also have internal communication digitally, such as staff meetings and lunch lectures.
Do you also want to describe how you view the business in five years?
In a way, the future is already here. The development has happened so incredibly fast, and sometimes it isn’t easy to see what the next big step will be. AI will, of course, revolutionise healthcare on all fronts. We also look forward to dictation capabilities such as translating speech into text. In the future, the system will, on its own, identify what is essential in a conversation and document it. Technology for better home monitoring is another exciting area of development that will mean significant improvements both for us who work in healthcare and our patients.
Finally, do you have any other reflections regarding the care during COVID-19 or the care’s digital transition in general?
Above all, we want to convey that you should not be afraid of change. Drop the fax and dare to try new things! The patients and their needs will remain even after the corona. Therefore, we must continue to develop our ways of meeting them.
Are you interested in knowing how to go from physical to digital healthcare? Contact us for a demo!