Internet triage of 9498 outpatients daily in the time of COVID-19: Experiences of the largest public hospital in Taiwan

JMIR Med Inform. 2021 May 23. doi: 10.2196/20994. Online ahead of print.


Background: During pandemics, acquiring outpatients' travel, occupation, contact and cluster histories is one of the most important measures in assessing the risk of incoming patients. Previous means of acquiring this information in the examination room were insufficient to block the spread of the disease.

Objective: This study aimed to demonstrate the deployment of an automatic triage system to triage outpatients over the internet.

Methods: An automatic system was incorporated in the existing online appointment system of the hospital and deployed along with its on-site counterpart. Automatic query to the VPN travel and contact history database with each patient's National ID number was made for each attempt to acquire the patient's travel and contact history. Patients with relevant histories were denied registration or entry. Text messages were sent to patients without relevant history for the expedited route of entry if applicable.

Results: A total of 127857 visits was recorded. Among all the visits, 91195 were registered online. Seventy-one thousand eight hundred and sixteen of them generated text messages for expedited route of entry. Sixty-five patients had relevant histories revealed by the VPN database and were denied registration or entry.

Conclusions: An automatic system to acquire outpatients' relevant travel and contact histories was deployed rapidly in one of the largest academic medical centers in Taiwan. The updated system successfully denied patients with relevant travel or contact histories entry to the hospital without causing long lines. Further efforts could be made to integrate the system with the electronic medical record system.

Clinicaltrial: Not applicable.