When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in-person visits were converted to virtual visits to reduce exposure risk for patients, providers, and families. The capacity of Penn Medicine's legacy video platform was quickly exceeded due to the increased demand, creating a need for a new enterprise solution.
During initial interviews, providers and other care team members described the manual and inefficient nature of conducting virtual visits and identified specific pain points such as fear that more than one patient could join a virtual “exam room” at a time and the high-occurrence of errors associated with meeting links.
As part of Penn Medicine’s rapid response to COVID-19, a multidisciplinary team explored solutions to these problems.
A working prototype was created within days that leveraged existing custom data feeds from the electronic health record (EHR) and new vendor meeting software. Over the next few months, we released weekly iterations to continue to improve upon the solution.
Switchboard, the final product, is a full-service digital platform that makes it easy for providers and patients to participate in secure virtual visits. The platform is desktop and mobile-friendly and negates the need for users to sign-in or download an app to ensure accessibility.
For patients, Switchboard automatically generates and sends unique visit links, appointment reminders through the Penn Medicine Visit Guide, and setup instructions, thereby removing the coordination burden from practice staff.
For providers, Switchboard creates a dashboard view of daily appointments with encounter-specific links. The platform integrates with Haiku, Canto, and Doximity Dialer. It also features live status indicators that show when patients have joined a virtual exam room and enables easy transitions between desktop and mobile devices using QR codes.
Finally, Switchboard streamlines communication for all parties with bi-directional texting functionality and embedded language translation.
Switchboard is currently in use at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, Radnor, Chester County, and Princeton locations. At its peak, it supported approximately 29,000 virtual appointments a week and more than 7,000 unique provider and staff users.
Providers, staff, and patients report high satisfaction with the new platform.
Most importantly, Switchboard enables patients to receive high-value virtual care from the comfort and safety of their own homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.