Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic has assembled a multi-department project team to develop and implement a new Epic module called “Welcome.” The Welcome system will allow patients to use an iPad to fill out questionnaires and sign forms themselves prior to and during their appointments. This information will then be automatically uploaded to the patients’ chart. The benefits of Welcome will include shortened patient check-in, waiting, and rooming times, as well as freeing up staff to focus on other tasks.
According to Steve Abarta, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic IS Project Manager, in addition to saving staff time, it is hoped Welcome will also help patients feel more engaged about their visit.
“It helps reinforce that it’s not just us serving them, but that they have a role to play,” said Abarta.
One of the things the IS team has done is test different tablets to ensure the following: ease of use for patients; compatibility with current computer systems; and durability. During their evaluation, the team found purchase cost, durability and battery life to be the most important factors in selecting what tablet to use.
“For all the reasons above, iPads seem to be kind of the sweet spot for what we are doing,” said Abarta.
The project provided the IS team with many challenges, and Abarta expects more to come up before Welcome is introduced to the clinics early next year. Abarta feels one of the biggest challenges so far has been trying to decide the right number of tablets each clinic should get.
“We are a large organization. We are deploying to around 36 different sites, which include medical, dental and behavioral health,” said Abarta. “Epic [the software provider] doesn’t give you an exact formula, [like] buy two tablets for every provider, or look at your patient volume and divide it by X and you can figure out how many tablets. So, we have had to do multiple iterations of figuring out how many tablets are going to be enough, but not over buying as well.”
Another challenge has been designing and programing questions for each patient demographic and visit type. This ensures a 30-year-old male isn’t being asked the same questions as a pregnant, 25-year-old, female.
“I think it’s been more complicated than we anticipated,” said Abarta. “It’s been fun, but it’s complex making sure when a patient is given a tablet… they are being presented [questions] appropriate for that visit.”
The Welcome Project Team is planning to roll out to 6 locations in mid-January. If all goes well, Welcome will be introduced to the remaining medical locations five-weeks later. All dental and behavioral health locations will get Welcome four-weeks after that.
The time and effort spent now should pay off once Welcome is introduced.
“It’s about efficiency, reducing wait times and reducing effort for staff as well as just giving the patient more of a role in some of the visit process,” said Abarta.