Blue Shield of California launches digital triage tool for hospitals ahead of likely COVID-19 patient surge

Blue Shield of California is launching a digital tool to assist its network hospitals in mitigating an influx of patients seeking advice about the coronavirus pandemic. 

The COVID-19 Screener and Emergency Response Assistant (SERA) tool, launched in partnership with San Francisco company GYANT, would be accessible for patients on a participating hospitals’ website and will triage several basic questions before directing patients to the appropriate sites of care. 

The goal is to ensure patients are seeking care in the right settings as hospitals work to manage the demand for COVID-19 care. Terry Gilliland, M.D., executive vice president for healthcare quality and affordability at Blue Shield, told FierceHealthcare it’s critical to be “super judicious with how we use our resources” as cases spike. 

“These next two weeks will be really critical for us and our communities,” he said. 

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Gilliland said with all the work necessary to mobilize for the pandemic, a hospital may not have the capacity to build a tool like COVID-19 SERA on its own.  

Blue Shield can ensure the tool is live on a hospital’s site within 48 hours and will cover the cost of operating, updating and licensing to use the tool for three months for in-network providers. 

The tool is customizable to suit a hospital’s individual emergency response protocols and will be updated regularly with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. 

Gilliland said that as the insurer’s network hospitals are diverse, the tool is designed to be flexible to meet their varied needs. 

“If we can do [this work] digitally, we can free up those resources to do the more intense work,” said Alexandra Frith, lifestyle medicine consumer marketing principal at Blue Shield.