Communication is especially important nowadays during the international COVID-19 crisis, where physical interactions are discouraged in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus and flatten the curve.
The demand and pressure on health care services have soared as these professionals continue to fight on the front lines to diagnose and care for patients. Call loads into health information phone lines have also increased drastically as the public wants to be tested to see if they have the virus, whether they are symptomatic or not.
Many areas have implemented online screening services that they are asking the public to use before calling into the health information lines to try and reduce the number of calls and better manage their resources.
However, while online self-assessment tools provided on websites are typically the norm, did you know that SMS (or text messaging) can also be used for this purpose?
With the help of an automation platform, medical professionals are able to set up an automated SMS smart flow that can be used when patients are concerned about whether they are experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, before calling into the health information phone line. Patients will be able to go through this automated flow, receiving questions and sending replies, all without the intervention of a single human being on the other end!
But how is this possible?
Below we have outlined the process for creating an automated SMS self-assessment tool for COVID-19.
1. Choose a Keyword
How are your patients going to access this self-assessment tool? The first thing to do when creating your automated smart flow is to create a keyword to assign to it. This keyword will be associated with a shortcode (a five or six-digit phone number that’s easy to remember) and when it is connected to the corresponding smart flow, a patient can text the keyword to the shortcode and automatically begin the self-assessment.
For example, you might want to create a keyword such as COVID, or something else that makes it clear that this keyword will be used for the COVID-19 self-assessment tool.
Once you have your keyword, now you can start building out your smart flow.
2.Create Your Smart Flow
When creating the automated SMS smart flow for your COVID-19 self-assessment tool, you first need to have your assessment process mapped out. This will be a series of “yes” or “no” questions and all possible paths that can be followed. These questions should start out broad but get more specific as the patient moves down through the assessment flow.
So, let’s say the first question a patient receives after texting the keyword to the shortcode is whether they have traveled outside of the country in the past 14 days. Depending on which answer the patient provides, they will be sent an appropriate follow-up question – such as whether they are experiencing a high fever or a worsening cough if they responded “yes,” or whether they have interacted with someone who has recently returned from travel if they responded “no.”
Now we have two separate branches in our smart flow that may look something like this:
The next thing you need to do is build out the rest of the smart flow, creating new questions and follow-ups for when a patient responds “yes” or “no.” Keep in mind you can always re-route the patient by directing an answer from one branch to receive a follow-up question in the other.
For example, if a patient replies “no” to the first travel-related question but “yes” to the follow-up question regarding interacting with a traveler, they can be re-routed so that their next follow-up question is the same question patients who answered “yes” to the first one received, regarding the high fever and worsening cough.
3.Provide a Result
The final part of the SMS self-assessment tool is the result that is given to the patient once they have answered all the questions provided to them through the assessment.
In theory, in terms of the COVID-19 self-assessment at least, a patient would ultimately be directed to one of three potential endpoints.
The first endpoint would be reached by those patients who have indicated they are not experiencing any symptoms and who have not had any contact with anyone who has recently returned from travel. These patients should be informed that they do not have to call the health information phone line but that they should continue to respect social distancing directives.
The second endpoint would be reached by those patients who have indicated they have been in contact with someone who has recently traveled but who are not currently experiencing any symptoms themselves. These patients should be informed that they do not have to call the health information phone line but that they must self-isolate for a 14-day period.
The third endpoint would be reached by anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have traveled themselves or have been in contact with anyone who has traveled. These patients should be instructed to call the health information phone line to be assessed by a health care practitioner. They will also be informed of the need to self-isolate for 14 days.
SMS automation benefits
We all know that SMS (or text messaging) is a powerful way to communicate with friends, family, colleagues, clients, and even patients. Messages are typically opened within three minutes of receiving them, making it an efficient way of communicating as well. So why shouldn’t you leverage this technology to provide an additional way for people to get the answers they need when they most need them?
And the best part?
It will lessen the load on the online self-assessment tool’s web server and it will also reduce the number of people calling in to the health information line so that health care practitioners can focus on current patients and ensuring there is enough supplied available to care for them effectively.
This entire scenario can be built easily in SimplyCast’s 360 automation tool. Each SMS message and appropriate response can be mapped out and properly linked so that patients receive almost an identical assessment to the web-based one (the only difference being the need for SMS messages to be more succinct due to the character number limitations).
Check out this information sheet for more information about automated SMS self-assessment tools and click the button below to request a demo of the platform from a member of our team.