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COVID-19 Test Results Texting

Two Blessing Health team members tell us how they simplified COVID test results messaging
Matt Kelly

Matt Kelly

Partner and Business Designer at Do Tank

Do Tank is proud to work with healthcare professionals who are taking on some of the toughest challenges within their organizations. For the past year and a half, this has meant helping these professionals step up to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacob and Ariel at Blessing Health System designed and implemented a solution to text COVID-19 test results to patients who had received a test at Blessing. Jacob and Ariel designed and launched their solution in a week with the help of Do Tank design thinking tools.

This project alleviated a massive volume of outbound calls that were being made to early participants in COVID testing. The outcomes included much faster results–and enhanced satisfaction–for patients and a simplified process and workload for the Blessing call center. Jacob and Ariel were kind enough to answer a few questions about this project–read their thoughts on planning and implementing this solution to see the role that collaboration and design thinking played in their process.

What is the problem you are solving – how did you discover this was an issue?

There were a couple of challenges that we were set on trying to solve. The first was the delay patients experienced in receiving COVID results. The second was the overwhelming number of results coming back that the staff had to then call people about – this backlog of calls was a main contributor to the delay for patients. At one point in time, we were having 750 results a day that had to be communicated to patients, and our hotline team just couldn’t keep up with that. The evidence was pretty clear from our analytics team as well; we knew that something had to be done for patients and colleagues.

Illustration of a person on a headset working on a laptop

What is the solution and how did you arrive at it?

We created a system for providing our patients with text notifications about their test results. This removed a huge burden from the call center. However, we had a couple of ideas that we thought through before arriving at the texting solution.

We initially thought through using the patient portal as the primary means of communication, but not every patient is signed up for it and up to 48 hours can be necessary for results to be posted. We knew this wasn’t going to be good enough.

Knowing that cell phones are widely owned and accessible, we thought that the best way to communicate with patients would be via this technology. However, we had to navigate HIPAA constraints. The text notifies them that results are in and delivers a unique link to the patient so they can see those results.

When we started this project, we estimated a time to completion of two weeks. After a lot of virtual meetings and long days, we got it up and running within a week.

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How did you take your existing technology and capabilities and work within its constraints?

One of the initiatives we have at Blessing is the goal of reducing the applications we have in house. We have hundreds of applications already, and wanted to make sure that we ‘used what we have’–in terms of systems and knowledge–rather than just purchasing a solution. The week that we spent building this actually resembled a Hackathon!

Our electronic medical records provide the flexibility to be open with our design concepts and to think outside the box. We had one issue in dealing with carrier companies. We couldn’t solve that in our time constraint, so we did rely on a third party provider for that piece. Otherwise it was completely done by the Blessing team.

an award trophy with a star

What is the feedback that you have gotten from your colleagues and patients?

I (Jacob) remember during our ‘go live’ night, I was playing a game online with a friend, and he casually mentioned that his mom had gotten a text notification about her COVID result. He had no idea that we had just deployed the text system that very day–it was sheer coincidence, and it was very cool to hear firsthand that it worked and that they were very pleased to get the result the day of the test. It allowed her to share results with her family and have peace of mind.
In terms of the return on investment, we can certainly say that the cost of this was incredibly low. We have sent over 4,700 text messages to date and have only incurred a cost of thirty nine dollars and eight cents. 67% of people who have received texts have clicked on it and looked at it. In the cases where people didn’t view it, there is the possibility that we didn’t have a good cell phone number for them.

One of our missions is to reduce anxiety of a patient, and there are a few things more anxiety building than awaiting a result. We wanted to share this information as soon as possible.
From an internal perspective, we got recognized from our colleagues–we were both thrilled to be honored with the organization’s Be a Star Award for developing this. We heard from the person who built the hospital’s dashboard that this has really reduced workload, and the feedback from the people in the call center has been amazing. I think that we have effectively helped them reduce the challenges they experienced when over 700 calls had to be placed daily.

video telehealth call between a patient and doctor

What’s next?

We want to explore where we can take our texting abilities with this. We have the abilities to use artificial intelligence chatbots and connect conversations about how patients might be feeling with medical records.

Another idea is to not just have these conversations with our patients, but also have these conversations with our employees. There might be other forms of communications with colleagues and team members that can be done with the use of artificial intelligence and texting. We have talked about how employees communicate back to the organization if they are sick, etc.–with the technology that we currently have, we can create meaningful and efficient text based communication with them.

Text messaging has been around for so long, but since we started doing this, it feels really new. Since the launch of this project, we have received a lot of outreach and inquiries from colleagues at Blessing–some of which could really ease workflows and processes. It goes beyond text–into voice and real time video chat. The future possibilities are extremely exciting.

Thanks to Jacob C. and Ariel M. at Blessing Health Systems for talking with us about how this project developed quickly with an assist from Do Tank’s healthcare design thinking tools!

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