Women’s College Hospital (WCH), a fully affiliated teaching hospital of the University of Toronto, is normally outpatient only. They don’t have inpatient beds and they don’t have an emergency room. But with a global pandemic occurring, nothing is normal.

Recently, the hospital transformed its facility to accommodate patients infected with COVID-19. It also opened a COVID-19 Assessment Centre for diagnostic testing. Like other hospitals and health systems, WCH quickly mobilized to respond to the pandemic using virtual care.

Prior to the pandemic, the hospital’s IT department had been looking into virtual care capabilities. But when infections started spiking throughout Canada and the hospital experienced a surge in calls and cases related to COVID-19, their target deadlines changed from “as soon as it’s ready” to “now.”

Here’s how they launched a COVID self-assessment solution in just four days.


Fast-tracking assessments and care for the community

WCH discovered the COVID-19 Care Response Solution from Salesforce and teamed up with Couch & Associates as their technology partner. Together, the team used the solution to launch an interactive COVID-19 online self-assessment tool ― complete with a virtual registration process that fully integrates with their electronic health record system, EPIC ― in only four days.

Available on the hospital’s website, the tool first screens people through a series of questions to determine the most appropriate pathway for patients.


Aligning on a vision, putting patients at the center

Before development began, the team met with the hospital executives to align on a vision and set goals for the project. This ensured IT leaders could be agile and remain focused on goals from start to finish.

Couch & Associates assigned a team of developers and marketing technologists to the project. These marketing technologists usually work with corporate clients. Part of their job is to guide prospects along a client’s marketing funnel. In this case, the marketing technologists route leads from the hospital’s self-assessment portal to the appropriate care response, as follows:

  • Individuals flagged through the online assessment as high-risk and/or symptomatic, and live within the WCH catchment area, are guided through to register with the hospital to receive a virtual assessment from one of their physicians.

  • If the physician indicates they need to get tested, they are then fast-tracked to WCH’s physical Assessment Centre. Upon arrival, they get swabbed and are in and out of the facility within minutes. Patients can also easily access their results on the hospital’s My Health Record online patient portal.

  • Persons flagged as critically ill are transferred to the Emergency Room.

  • If an individual has no symptoms and no underlying health conditions, they are encouraged to stay at home, self-isolate, and continue to monitor for any changes in health.


Expanding the tool to individuals beyond Women’s College Hospital

The public’s concern about their health and wellbeing grew exponentially as the global spread of the pandemic advanced. The hospital’s online assessment tool utilization rate spiked within the first days of its launch. People were recommending it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. To date, over 10,000 people have used the tool to self-assess.

Since the tool is cloud-based and therefore flexible by nature, it can be scaled quickly to support the growing number of people accessing the self-assessment tool. Further, the hospital can add or adjust questions as needed as new information becomes available about the virus.


Helping to flatten the curve with technology

“By using technology to address and alleviate the surge in calls, and opening up a way for people to get fast-tracked testing, we have been able to make the assessment process more efficient for patients and for the staff and physicians in our Assessment Centre,” said WCH Chief Information Officer Drew Wesley.

Wesley added, “I am deeply grateful to our community for their support and to the IT team that worked tirelessly to get the solution up and running so quickly.”

We too are deeply grateful to WCH for its swift response to our global health crisis.

Salesforce offers Salesforce Care for Health, a free care response solution for healthcare and life science organizations impacted by COVID-19. The solution can be deployed quickly and at no charge for six months to immediately aid those in need. Refer to the blog post for details.