How our test scheduling app came to be—and how it’s helping Maryland expand COVID-19 testing
During a pandemic, innovation must move quickly. Already a month into almost nation-wide isolation and the peaks of The Curve just starting to show, hospitals and healthcare providers are still grappling with an unprecedented challenge: expanding testing for COVID-19.
Testing supplies and manpower are already stretched thin, yet an increase in available testing is critical to accurately monitor and mitigate the virus’s spread. Images of mile-long lines stretching from remote testing sites illustrate the need for a better process: one that respects the time, safety, and needs of both providers and patients.
Healthcare providers in the state of Maryland have been overwhelmed with patients in need of testing during the COVID–19 pandemic. As a result, designated Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) facilities in Maryland were repurposed as free drive-through testing sites.
Maryland’s Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP), a nonprofit health information exchange for Maryland and the District of Columbia, needed an immediate solution to help with scheduling appointments for COVID-19 testing. Put another way, emissions testing facilities don’t come with front-desk staff or secure methods of digitally organizing sensitive patient information, making the need for a good solution imminent.
Enter Mazik Global. As 2020 events were canceled and businesses temporarily closed their doors, we changed course to address the growing need for new tech solutions that addressed the pandemic. Streamlining Maryland’s new COVID-19 testing sites was the perfect opportunity to address an immediate problem we feel deeply about. So we set to work figuring out how to help.
Finding the pain points
CRISP needed support fast. And balancing the supply of available testing kits as testing moved to drive-up clinics was unsustainable. Mazik and partners at Microsoft approached CRISP with an idea to beta test a brand-new solution that would integrate directly with their current software systems. The development team set to work developing the Patient Scheduling App over a weekend, pulling long hours to ensure they could roll out a solution by the next week. This four-day development—which included design, configuration, testing, and production-readiness—resulted in the app that has now been customized for CRISP and is live today.
“What I feel good about is that if this thing needed to scale to 100,000 [tests], it could,” said Michael Berger, CRISP Chief Information Officer.
Creating the Key Features
As Maryland readied its test sites, measures were put in place to ensure testing access was available to those who really needed it. So the system was connected to a physician portal where doctor-referred patients could easily make an appointment on their mobile devices for drive-up testing.
Developers knew they wanted to make appointment booking stress free for everyone, so they aimed for a process with as few steps as possible. That translated to:
- A doctor refers a patient for testing
- The patient receives a text with a link to book an appointment
- The link lands on a web page to confirm the patient’s personal information
- The patient chooses a nearby testing facility and available time slot
- Alternatively, they can phone the call center to book through a live agent
- Next, the patient receives a text confirmation and a unique QR code for check-in
- An appointment reminder is sent 24 hours before the appointment
- Upon arrival at the facility, the patient’s QR code is scanned for touch-free check-in
For facilitators at the testing site, the process also needed to be simple to keep things running smoothly and accurately. For facilitators, the app:
- Scans the patient’s QR code or allows them to search for the patient’s record
- Centralizes patient data across all participating field-testing facilities, with the option to connect the visit to the patient’s electronic health or medical record (EHR/EMR)
- Syncs appointment slots with resource management to ensure open slots don’t exceed the number of test kits or personnel available
Launching the App
On April 18th, CRISP went live with the app in Maryland and quickly set up free appointments for 1,500 patients, many of whom may have gone without testing for lack of insurance or an existing primary care relationship. “What I feel good about is that if this thing needed to scale to 100,000 [tests], it could,” said Michael Berger, CRISP Chief Information Officer. “I feel like this is built on a good foundation. I’ve got the full faith and credit of Microsoft behind it, and I’ve got a partner [in Mazik Global].”