A Pandemic Protocol Becomes a Facility Safety Standard

By David Brian Ward

Throughout the pandemic, many healthcare and assisted living facilities adopted digital check-in for health screenings and visitor management. This was driven by the acknowledgment that the pandemic wasn’t going to end quickly and the realization that existing paper-based sign in books and health questionnaires were time consuming, created more work, and were a privacy risk. As omicron numbers decrease and COVID-19 eventually enters an endemic state, digital check-in is proving to offer more value beyond its original intent.

Most people fundamentally understand how a QR code based app works. They point their smartphone at a dedicated QR-coded poster and are taken to a private web page where they can log in. At healthcare facilities, the questions presented to a visitor on their smartphone can be adapted based on state requirements or the facilities own guidelines. During the height of the pandemic, this made contact tracing and compliance record keeping easier.

Healthcare facilities administrators soon learned there’s a lot of upside to streamlining the check-in process and verifying visitor identities. Most notable is patient privacy, which is at risk when front desks rely on visitor sign-in logs and disposable name tags. 

Additional longer-term benefits are starting to emerge, especially when a facility establishes a digital check in protocol that extends beyond visitors to include employees, outside medical professionals, contract workers, and vendors. There’s a lot of insight that can be gained from knowing who is or was in the building, who they visited, and how long they were there.

The digital records present a snapshot in time that is useful for healthcare administrators and anybody supervising staff. For example, the check-in data can be used to verify employee attendance and hours worked, support incident reports, and spot trends related to performance. It can also provide insight into care by knowing which residents could benefit from more company. Yet not all QR codes are alike.

Campbell Creek House Makes the Shift to Digital Check In

At every assisted living facility, the pandemic increased workloads, making it more challenging to maintain health and safety for residents and staff. Paper-based processes were unwieldy, especially as government policies and guidelines changed as more information became known about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  

At Anchorage-based Campbell Creek House, a 40-bed assisted living facility, every time a visitor came into the building, staff needed to collect their contact information, complete a health screening, and take their temperature. Since it was all done using paper and pen, it made the check in process long, adding stress on the visitor and the staff. At the same time, new digital check in apps were starting to emerge. 

According to Sandy Vasquez, administrator at Campbell Creek House, “I’m always on the lookout for a way to streamline our information systems and procedures so that I can spend less time on data management and paper shuffling and more meaningful time with residents.” By streamlining the check in process, Vasquez and her team are able to ensure privacy and spend more time caring for residents. “Safe Site Check In’s contactless check-in app frees up staffing and helps reduce unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 while also meeting state visitor log requirements,” Vazquez said. For Campbell Creek House, digital check in started as a pandemic protocol and will remain part of their safety standards.

Evaluating QR Code Apps 

As you evaluate QR codes, look for the following four criteria.

  • Customized for your facility. Make sure the code is not randomly pulled from an online site. A randomly generated code poses privacy risks for anybody checking in on their phone and doesn’t allow facilitators to capture and analyze check-in data. Instead, you want a dedicated QR code for each facility or building on campus.   
  • Ensures data protection and individual privacy. You need assurance that every time someone checks in through the app, their information is protected. One way to assess a potential check in app is to find out where check-in data is stored and who can access the data. The ideal scenario is that the data is stored in a private cloud with password protected access and double verification to view check-in records.
  • Makes it easy to add or remove check-in questions. Facilitators should be able to modify the check-in questions or create their own without requiring custom coding or IT get involved. Some facilities have adapted the check-in screen to include their logo or a picture of the facility. This action reinforces their brand and makes visitors feel more comfortable checking in online.  
  • Provides check in data and analytics for spotting trends. When you step back and look at check-in data over a week, month or longer period of time, it starts to show trends and provide insights about the facility. You can notice the ebb and flow of foot traffic to better inform staffing needs. You can also know how many people are in the building at any given time for safety and capacity planning. Also, in case there’s an emergency, you can easily text everybody in the building or in a specific wing.   

The pandemic has caused healthcare facilities and assisted living homes to endure unprecedented situations. As care providers look to new ways to use contactless technology, digital check in has been at the forefront. It is one example, among many, of the ways that digital technology is helping transform healthcare and the safety and care of patients and residents and illustrated one of the lessons learned from the pandemic that is here to stay.  

David Brian Ward is a technology entrepreneur and investor. For more than 30 years, David’s experience has centered around the business of technology management for organizations ranging in size from Fortune 500 companies to startups in their infancy stages.