The Intake module: From research to launch

Photo of Aleksandra KwiecieńAleksandra Kwiecień
July 27, 2022
... min read

Interview with Natalia Deryło and Tom Fernandes, Product Managers at Infermedica

Infermedica Intake is a new module for digital patient intake and consultation support for patients and doctors. This product has come a long way, from discussions with healthcare companies to pre-release tests—all in alignment with Infermedica's values and quality-ensuring procedures.

The process spanned months, and today, we’ll chat with Natalia Deryło and Tom Fernandes, Product Managers, who have carried this project through the design and development processes.

At a glance:

Natalia Deryło and Tom Fernandes, Product Managers at Infermedica. Illustration by Aga Więckowska.

What were the market needs that inspired Infermedica to create a new module?

Natalia: We’ve been working with symptom-checking tools for some time, and we often observed that symptoms, or risk factors collected by them, could actually help further. Companies that we spoke to wanted to use our products first for patient navigation, but also to optimize documentation, improve information flow, and aid the end-users: physicians and patients. We picked up this trail and started to investigate.

At Infermedica, we always want to see various perspectives. What we have learned from these companies was just the beginning. Soon we started a series of studies on end-users' needs—we checked existing data, but also conducted our own market research, benchmarking, and interviews. The Individual In-depth Interviews (IDIs) conducted with our partnering research agency confirmed many challenges that patients and physicians face at every visit. These struggles include barriers in communication and relationship-building between the key players in the diagnostic and treatment process.

Lack of time, inability to prepare for the visit, and large amounts of manual work were at the top of our lists. See the results of the patient and physician interviews.

The problems are many. How did you approach solving them?

Natalia: We know that solving all challenges is impossible without major changes in the healthcare system, communication culture, and building of trust between doctors and patients. What we have decided to focus on is the healthcare process and how digital technologies can shift it to create more space for collecting data and improving the patient-provider relationship.

The IDIs gave us a deeper understanding of the flawed processes in healthcare, as well as how they can negatively affect patients. We saw that many problems are ultimately related to information sharing. As the analyses and discussions unfolded, we started thinking about moving the medical interview back in time. What if we could ask standard questions before the visit? What if the patient could have more time to note their allergies or medications? What if an up-to-date summary of the patient’s symptoms could be waiting on the doctor’s desk? That is how we moved from the discovery phase to designing a minimum viable solution. We listed all features that we, and our clients, would love to see in the new solution and then cut them down to the minimum that we developed. Then, we had to test out if this direction was the right one.

How did physicians react and contribute to the MVP?

Natalia: When we presented the first version of Infermedica Intake to the physicians working with us, they were quite curious about it. We went through many questions and discussions. Our physicians wanted to be sure that the solution and its construction were safe and simple for the patients to use, and that it collected only information that clinicians really needed. We were looking for a balance between the length of the patient interview and the completeness of the information. Another incredibly important aspect was the organization of the collected data and augmenting it with the information standards used in doctors’ offices, such as ICD-10 codes and lists of available drugs.

Our medical team, especially Konrad Kokurewicz MD, Katarzyna Trybucka MD, and Otto Krawiec MD, did tremendous work building lists of allergies, reasons for hospitalization, and chronic diseases. They were also responsible for the interview flow.

Our physicians helped us strike the right balance between the information that should be collected and that which should be passed on. The tool they helped create empowers strong patient engagement; prepares patients for the visit; and allows patients to become partners in their own care patch.

Your next step was launching a Pilot Program. How did it influence the Intake module?

Natalia: The Pilot Program took about six months and was an absolutely amazing experience that allowed us to test out Infermedica Intake in the real world. Of course, there were many challenging moments, but they brought us important insights. We now know interoperability is key, which is why we're building a flexible, structured API on the back of our pilot learnings. It also helps to avoid repetitive questions, like about the patients' age or gender, if these are already collected by the clinic.

Participating physicians also took a thorough look at the interview process and structure of collected information and helped us to improve it.

With each demo, we were able to identify new features that could be useful for our customers, and we have already added some of these to future development lists. Having interviews adjusted to selected medical specializations is one of them.

Another key finding was the importance of automated patient intake tools in telemedicine. Clinics participating in the pilot noted that when physicians met patients for the first time, they had very little time to collect and understand their medical history. The visits are too short, and the new module solves this.

Along with the Pilot Program, we found evidence that our new module—Infermedica Intake—can serve as a backup to physicians. One day, we were approached by a doctor who had a patient with atypical stomach pains. The broad information collected in the Intake interview helped link the pain with one of the supplements the patient was taking.

Challenges faced by physicians when working with patients

Over 42% of physicians experienced burnout in 2021. That’s why the Infermedica team ran Individual In-depth Interviews to understand physicians’ perspectives and needs.

As the module matured, Intake was taken over by Tom Fernandes, who is now leading the product launch. What does the module look like today?

Tom: Infermedica Intake has come a long way from its first days, but its core elements remain the same. These are Patient Survey and Doctor’s Panel.

The Patient Survey is a comprehensive medical interview where patients can add information about their medical history and current symptoms. Symptoms are collected using best practices we have learned along the way, giving patients a chance to reflect on all of their symptoms. In effect, patients are better prepared for the appointment and more conscious about their state.

In the Doctor’s Panel, physicians get access to the patient interview summary in a simple and organized manner. Of course, symptoms can evolve, which is why doctors can update the summary during the visit. The important thing is that they do not need to start from an empty page. All essential information is already there, ready to use, modify, and transfer to EHR systems. Having patient information collected ahead of time enables doctors to get a deeper understanding of their patients, use the visit time more efficiently, and reduce miscommunication and lack of data risks.

Both elements are based on Infermedica’s Medical Guidance Platform that learns with every new case and improves over time.

How can I start working with the Intake module?

Tom: The best way to start is to contact us. We’ll be happy to show you all the possibilities of the Intake module as well as verify if this is the best solution to support your business. Infermedica Intake is dedicated to all primary care providers, but there are many ways to use it. Today, it works as an independent tool, but soon, with the new API version, it will be possible to integrate it with other platforms like booking systems, process automations, and a wide range of EHRs.

What are the future plans for Infermedica Intake?

Tom: Our API is the top priority right now. At Infermedica, we recognize interoperability as a key consideration for the industry. The API will give our clients the flexibility to build and configure solutions that fit their needs and those of their patients.

Clients will be empowered to build their own integrations and pull in information from other sources to shape the Patient Survey. As a result, we believe doctors will have the best information at their disposal and patients will feel listened to.

Please visit the dedicated Intake page to learn more about it.

Get in touch with our team to discuss the details.

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