Symptom Checker: Answering Health Questions in Real Time + Easing the ER Burden

In conjunction with our press release announcing HonorHealth’s recent implementation of the Loyal Symptom Checker within their chatbot, Rachelle Montano, MS, RD, MBA, VP, Clinical Strategy gave us some deeper insight on the Symptom Checker chatbot tool and the advantages it offers consumers, patients and healthcare system staff.

Symptom Checker is a tool that allows individuals to determine the level of care they need, online. Symptom Checker triages its users by asking a series of questions about their symptoms, leading them to a solution for the next step in taking care of their health concerns. 

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“Triage” means getting patients to the most appropriate level of care. For health systems, triaging a patient typically means determining if they should visit the emergency room (ER), go to an urgent care facility, make a doctor’s appointment in the next 24 hours, practice self-care at home, or call 911. Explains Montano, “Symptom Checker doesn’t ask you to point to body parts, but “listens” with natural language processing, utilizing the language the user inputs to make determinations about what would be the best next steps.” Loyal’s Symptom Checker can also handle multiple “chief complaints” from users, so, hopefully, they can get all the information they need in one session with the online tool.

The Symptom Checker makes processes easier for consumers, administration and clinical staff. While it’s not a diagnostic tool, e.g., it won’t diagnose strep throat or the flu, it gives its users peace-of-mind, and means fewer unnecessary ER visits. Fewer unnecessary ER visits save the consumer time (waiting in the ER), money (ER visits can be expensive) and also frees up the hospital’s clinical staff and administration to deal with emergencies, meeting its community’s needs more efficiently and effectively.

According to a report by Accenture, unnecessary ER visits cost health systems more than $47 billion a year. Others report that the healthcare industry’s shortage of clinical staff and burnout are a big challenge for the healthcare industry as a whole, making access to care increasingly difficult. But experts find that digital clinical encounter solutions offering triage services can:

  • Reduce the time it takes for clinical staff to gather and review patient information.
  • Direct patients and consumers to the right level of care or assistance, thus avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits.
  • Boost patient, consumer, and clinical staff satisfaction overall.
  • Make access to more complex information and in-person visits easier for patients and consumers.

Symptom Checker also pushes the data from patient and consumer conversations to different channels at once, giving patients and consumers a true omni-channel experience. “The term ‘omni-channel experience’ means that no matter where a user is – any platform, any device – they’ll have the same experience from one to the next, and that’s what the flexible API facilitates,” adds Montano.

Finally, if a user is still concerned after they’ve been triaged, HonorHealth’s Symptom Checker lets them connect to a nurse call line – giving them another chance to ease their minds and help them make the right care decisions for themselves and for their families. 

Read more about another great Loyal partnership with UCLA Health here!

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