COVID-19 is stretching hospital resources thin. Not only are clinical areas like ER’s and ICU’s feeling the strain, but even call centers and websites are being overwhelmed. People want information about the novel coronavirus and are looking to healthcare providers for it. CareSignal created a solution specifically to deal with this and is giving it away for free to any organization.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with CareSignal’s co-founder and CEO, Blake Marggraff to find out more about what they are doing.
CareSignal is a company that makes a remote patient monitoring platform that helps providers and payers achieve their value-based care objectives. With their platform, care teams receive real-time alerts when patients respond to pre-configured questions via text messages or automated phone calls. It is often used to help manage CHF, CPOD, diabetes and depression, and other such conditions.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Marggraff saw an opportunity to help. Together, the team at CareSignal built a solution with patient communication at its core, to help healthcare organizations disseminate accurate information about the pandemic to their communities WITHOUT overburdening their call centers.
“It’s been a pretty incredible three weeks,” said Marggraff. “We have a unique opportunity to have more of a positive impact than we ever thought we could.”
Credible COVID-19 information via text
Their solution, called COVID Companion, is “patient-facing, interactive chatbot that share local public health resources, educational tips and recommendations from the CDC regarding COVID-19 regardless of patient infection status.” The goal is to improve community preparedness through education and guided access to care. It is not a replacement for medical evaluation or emergency service, but it is a mechanism through which the general public can get reliable, evidence-based information about what they can/should do.
The CareSignal team has pre-populated COVID Companion with CDC information. Customers can add to that repository either with materials they created themselves or from trusted third parties.
Giving people access to up-to-date, credible information that is specific to their situation is incredibly important. Without a technology like COVID Companion, hospital helplines would be inundated with people calling in to ask basic coronavirus questions. The solution from CareSignal, takes the burden of curating updated, reliable information off healthcare providers so they can focus on providing care on the front lines.
So far, the results are promising. “We’ve already seen it adopted by thousands of people in 47 states,” explained Marggraff. “There are more than 30 systems, payers, and clinics, and we’re coming up on 100,000 interactions now.”
One organization that’s benefiting from COVID Companion is Esse Health, a St. Louis-based independent physician group. They white-labeled the solution and rolled it out to their community as “Esse COVID Companion”. Anyone can access the solution by texting “ESSE” to 67634 or by scanning a special QR code. There is nothing to download, no login required and no need for a data plan. The system will then interact with the person via text (or automated phone call).
“Esse COVID Companion can free up vital resources by providing COVID-19 education and support to our patients with this automated program,” said Mike Castellano, Chief Executive Officer, Esse Health in a press release. “It provides information directly that patients would normally try to get by calling our offices, freeing up phones. Thousands of patients are already using the program.”
According to Marggraff, COVID Companion can be up and running at an organization in as little as 3 hours.
Monitoring patients self-isolating at home
In addition to COVID Companion, CareSignal has also developed COVID Connect which can help monitor patients who have been asked by healthcare providers to isolate themselves at home. The goal of COVID Connect is to regularly check in with these patients to determine if more urgent care is needed or whether they are able to cope at home.
The solution asks simple questions to assess how they are feeling and gathers data to determine triggers that could signal a need for higher-touch care. For example, the patient may receive a text asking if their breathing has gotten worse. If they respond with “yes”, COVID Connect will help the patient contact the healthcare provider’s COVID hotline so they can get the help they need right away. These automated check-ins are easily and quickly scalable plus they ensure patients are never too far from the right resources.
One interesting note, by working closely with healthcare organizations during this pandemic, Marggraff and his team have helped to make a subtle change in the public messaging. They recently discovered that for one provider, 40% of their population didn’t have a primary care physician (PCP) or didn’t know who their PCP was. That in and of itself is unremarkable, but when coupled with the standard COVID-19 messaging which asks people to “call their doctor if they have symptoms,” this led to considerable confusion. Without an alternative, people went to the ED to seek information and support.
So what’s next for CareSignal? Marggraff is confident that when COVID-19 is behind us, the company will return to what they do best – supporting at-risk patients who have chronic and behavioral health conditions. They are integrating predictive modelling tools into their platform so that they can better detect when a patient might be disengaging from their care – a dangerous pre-cursor to a deterioration in their condition – and alerting the appropriate member of their care team.
For now, Marggraff wants to encourage everyone in healthcare to take advantage of the free resources CareSignal provides. “If you are anywhere near healthcare, head to covidcompanion.com, and you’ll be directed to a page to see if our free solution is right for you. And thank you for your heroic work.”
Watch my interview with Marggraff to learn more.
Visit https://www.caresignal.health/ for more information about their free solution.
This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100