Workflow platform improves patient experience while reducing costs
October 1, 2018
TORONTO – Enter the Magenta Health family clinic on Queen Street, in downtown Toronto’s east end, and the first thing you notice is that there’s no dedicated receptionist.
Instead, there’s touch screen kiosks for patients to check in or to summon assistance. It’s easy to check in because the system knows who to expect.
You then take a seat and wait to see your doctor. A large screen on the wall tells you how long you will likely wait; and when it’s your turn, the system displays the information, announces your name and tells you which exam room to go to.
The alert is both visual and by voice – albeit a computerized voice.
Not that help isn’t available when needed. There are assistants at the busy clinic, who check on arrivals and conduct follow-ups and referral bookings on the phone.
But for the most part, patients are guided by computerized alerts, using a system called CHIME.
“We’ve created a workflow system called CHIME for the clinic,” said Keith Chung, Co-Founder of Chime Technologies Inc. “It’s a clinical communications and collaboration platform.”
Indeed, the 12-doctor Magenta Health clinic is acting as a test-bed for both the new CHIME workflow system and Veribook, a smart scheduling system that enables patients to book their own appointments developed by a sister company also co-founded by Chung.
By eliminating dedicated receptionists and patient escorts, the system brings down the cost of running a medical office considerably.
Moreover, by automating the flow of patients through the clinic using alerts and prompts, Chung says Chime can increase the capacity of a medical office by 40 percent to 60 percent.
He explains that a traditional 10-room medical clinic may have five physicians, but they each have two dedicated exam rooms at any one time. While seeing a patient in one room, staff bring another patient into the second room to minimize downtime between patients.
That means up to 50 percent of exam rooms aren’t being actively used at any given time, when breaks and gaps between appointments are factored in.
But with Chime, more physicians can share the exam rooms simultaneously – up to seven or eight.
As soon as a doctor finishes seeing a patient, a tablet computer mounted outside the room tells him where to head next, and the name of the patient.
At the same time, an alert goes to an assistant to clean the room that was just used.
As soon as it has been readied, the system prompts the next patient to proceed to that exam room.
“You’ve increased capacity by intelligent room sharing,” said Chung. “You’re not shortening the patient encounter, you’re improving it. You’re using real estate more effectively.”
The Magenta Health clinic, for example, where 12 doctors work, is functioning smoothly with 11 exam rooms. In the past, a clinic of this size might have required 18 to 20 exam rooms.
Chung observed that about a third of a clinic’s costs are related to real estate. So, by reducing the need for space, or by increasing patient throughput in an existing medical office, the financial viability of a clinic can be improved.
Another big cost is taking phone calls, especially if a busy clinic needs to assign multiple staff to this task. Veribook can further reduce the cost of running a clinic by another 10-15 percent by automating the scheduling of appointments by patients.
Veribook ties into the schedules of the physicians who are on duty on a particular day.
So, if there is no pediatric specialist available on a certain day, it won’t make an appointment. As well, it is aware of physician preferences. A doctor may prefer to do physicals on Fridays, for example, and so Veribook will only schedule that kind of appointment on that day, for that particular physician.