On-site corporate medical clinics have emerged as a means of trying to reduce healthcare costs, to increase the uptake of preventive services, and to improve access to healthcare services for employees. However, in many cases, the presence of these clinics have increased healthcare utilization and costs somewhat unexpectedly from visits and services for conditions that might not otherwise require medical attention (e.g., a stomach ache for an hour, cold symptoms for a day, minor blemishes on skin, etc.). The rise in these types of low-value/high-cost visits has presented a new problem we are addressing.

What it does

Introducing Sherpa, a new service that optimizes patient triage in onsite work clinics.

  • Optimize clinician services through triage
  • Quick and easy triage for healthcare services at the workplace
  • Convenient online appointment booking
  • Self-care tips for minor conditions that might not require medical care
  • Metrics to help assess frequency of common health complaints and to help refine the tool
  • Reduce health spending while continuing to offer high-quality healthcare

How we built it

After defining the problem, assessing the experiences of stakeholders, and identifying the features of the tool that would best address our problem, we created a prototype for an online system that would help triage patients to the most optimal care for their issue. We focused on creating a user-friendly interface that streamlined the questions/answer choices (and language) to facilitate the triage process and to minimize confusion on the user side.

Additionally, for the corporations who implement Sherpa, we designed a monthly metrics report that will outline productivity, time spent, money saved, and major workplace-related injuries or population health issues that might indicate important trends.

Challenges we ran into

Triaging medical conditions is a complex task that requires great care in ensuring that patients are evaluated appropriately. We had to carefully consider what kind of conditions to include in the self-care track while also ensuring that patients with concerning symptoms would be prioritized; the goal was to identify those patients with symptoms most amenable to self-management and to educate them appropriately.

Additionally, we wanted to take great care in making sure the user would not get frustrated in the process and feel like their care was being compromised.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We worked well as a team to quickly build out a feasible prototype to help triage and educate patients who are making decisions about booking clinic visits. We utilized the expertise of our team members’ business, medical, and technical backgrounds to optimize the design of the prototype, create go-to-market strategy, and strategize product development and scale-up mechanisms.

What we learned

Healthcare is a very complex problem with many factors to consider, and addressing challenges within the healthcare system can seem daunting. However we realized that there are very specific areas that can be addressed effectively and focused problems that can be solved to translate into meaningful impact. We also learned how great it is to work in an interdisciplinary team and were very impressed what we could accomplish in just one weekend’s time.

What's next for Sherpa

We believe this product addresses a key need for corporate health clinics: an excess of high-cost, low-value visits. Future steps could include:

  • Building out the beta version of the app with iterative design based on customer feedback from vendors, patients, and employee health clinics
  • Reach out to potential partners to figure out how to integrate with current practices: workplace clinics, scheduling tools, corporate healthcare vendors
  • Pilot Sherpa with initial partners such as Google’s clinics for continued feedback and iterative design
  • Acquire resources: funding for software development, office space, acquire or build out scheduling tool infrastructure
  • Marketing to corporate healthcare vendors and top 100 companies in the US who have established or thinking about establishing onsite health clinics.
  • Incorporate machine learning for continued improvement of the app to build reputation and accuracy
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