New solution helps with physical distancing in waiting rooms
September 30, 2020
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – In May 2020, with the COVID pandemic escalating, Northern Health searched for options to enable better physical distancing in common patient waiting areas.
A Northern Health interdisciplinary team representing Laboratory, Medical Imaging, and Information Management and Information Technology (IMIT) investigated solutions. The team was led by Bjorn Butow, director, Clinical Information Systems, and Lisette Vienneau, regional director, Diagnostic Services.
After reviewing vendor offerings, the team decided to implement the Net Check In solution by Innovative Computer Software, a company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Net Check In’s system is used by more than 12 million people around the world, in sectors that include retail and hospitality, education, automotive and laboratories. It bills itself as the top “queue management solution” available.
In Northern Health, the service has been branded as “NH Check In” and decreases the number of patients in the region’s hospital waiting rooms. Instead, it lets them safely wait in their cars, homes, or offices until just before their appointments.
“Many patients are so eager to use this service, especially during the pandemic” says Butow. “They see real-time wait-time updates so they can better juggle their life, work and family without being tied up in our waiting rooms with other sick patients.”
Net Check In is hosted in Canada (using AWS) and is a simple, cost-effective solution that met Northern Health’s clinical and IT requirements. It was quick to implement and is easy to use for both patients and healthcare departments.
Patients can use the service through an app (iOS or Android), or through the Northern Health website.
They receive app notifications and can sign up for text-based notifications.
Interestingly, Net Check In is used by Canada’s two largest private labs – by LifeLabs at 380 locations, and by Dynacare at 200 locations.
“NH Check In not only helps to reduce the COVID-19 risks to our patients, especially the most vulnerable, but also reduces the risk to our front-line staff and healthcare providers,” said Vienneau.
It’s also a great tool for rural and northern patients, many of whom have to travel long distances with family to get to their medical appointments.
“We have many patients who don’t live near a Northern Health facility,” says Sandi Watts, the project clinical lead. “It’s a very patient-centred service that offers a convenient way to check in for services ahead of time, so they can better plan their travel.”
Booked appointments can also be factored into the wait times.
“Patient feedback so far has been really positive and enthusiastic,” says Kent Foreman, the project’s technical lead. “It’s reduced the number of patient phone inquiries and provides better service reporting to Northern Health operations.”
The product launched at the end of July for laboratory services in three pilot locations in Northern BC: Prince Rupert, Terrace, and Dawson Creek.
Over the coming weeks and months, it will expand to support other locations – approximately 20 communities across northern BC – and other types of services and clinics.
Anne Scott is the Regional Manager of Corporate and Program Communications, Northern Health.