Responding to the urgent needs generated by the Covid-19 crisis, one Irish firm is providing tailored and secure patient portals to healthcare providers.
Wellola builds practice management software for both enterprise and small business clients. It has just launched a secure patient communication portal for the Health Service Executive (HSE), which provides all of Ireland’s public health services, to enable it to manage its response to Covid-19.
The software firm is also fielding queries from providers in other European countries eager to optimise their response to the crisis.
What is the HSE Covid-19 portal?
The HSE Covid-19 portal is a simple digital tool that enables Irish family doctors (known as general practitioners or GPs) and primary care providers to keep people well and treat those who are unwell, in the community if possible. It also aims to protect front-line medical practitioners from unnecessary exposure to coronavirus.
“We developed the portal as GPs in particular wanted to mitigate their risk and see people remotely if possible,” says Sonia Neary, co-founder and CEO of Wellola.
“Furthermore, they were aware that many GPs may need to self-isolate after potential exposure to Covid-19, placing an already-pressurised system under additional strain.
“With the portal, those GPs confined at home can connect to it, access all patient information securely and continue to care for patients. The portal offers video consultations, but also includes other functionality that facilitates secure patient care,” she adds.
What are its key features?
Irish GPs and primary care providers can set up an account in the portal to offer their patients services such as:
- Online booking
- Video consultation software (in app, text or email)
- Secure messaging
- Form completion to help with triaging
- Sharing information and resources
- Payment functionalities (e-Invoicing, payment in video-screen etc)
- e-Prescriptions (coming soon)
While healthcare providers typically access the portal on desktop computers, patients access it through a mobile app. Once their doctor gives them access, they can download and log in to the app to manage all communication and share clinical information.
Helping stop the spread of contagion
“We are thankful and pleased to partner with Sonia Neary and Wellola in providing Irish GPs with a video consultation solution,” said Dr Martin Curley, who leads the HSE Digital Transformation team, which focuses on using disruptive technology to drive substantial improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the Irish health service and the patient experience.
“This will be a key tool in providing remote care to patients in Ireland and a critical tool in helping avoid further contagion of Covid-19. We encourage GPs and other healthcare providers to access and use this service, which is provided at cost.”
Benefits to healthcare providers
For providers such as the HSE, a Wellola-built portal is a fast and cost-effective solution to the critical challenge of responding to potential and actual Covid-19 patients.
“It’s designed to be affordable,” says Neary. “If you were to go to a software provider and say ‘Build me a portal’, they would ask you to come back in six months and it would cost you a couple of thousand euro. With Wellola, clients can launch portals with relative speed and affordability.”
The portal also enables the provider to manage their Covid-19 response in a rapid, thorough and secure way. By using it, they can:
- Mitigate risk: The tool allows a GP practice to triage patients without needing them to attend the practice in person or go to hospital. Patients can fill forms and make bookings through the app, and have video consultations with medical staff.
- Provide remote care: The portal enables doctors to care for patients who are self-isolating, by using secure messaging and video, and sharing resources such as laboratory results and information leaflets.
- Maintain clinical workforce capacity: As all portal data is hosted centrally in the cloud, if clinicians such as GPs or consultants need to self-isolate, they can still contribute to remote care for patients if they are well enough to do so.
- Share information: With Wellola’s connected database and centralised cloud-based system, all those involved in patient care (including community-based providers, primary care staff, GPs, hospitals and so on) can access, track and share patient information relating to Covid-19 victims this single, central cloud-based system.
Built on healthcare expertise
Set up in 2017, Wellola initially built portals for physiotherapists. Neary was a practising physiotherapist and identified the need for secure software to help her peers do their work.
“I’m a big believer in hospital-at-home care models,” she says, “but found when I was providing home care, that I had no easy way to take a booking, keep notes or take a payment and, while out, I could miss an enquiry.”
Working across the sector
Since then, the company has evolved to providing portals in Ireland and other countries for other networks of healthcare professionals, such as occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and mental healthcare providers, along with large entities such as hospitals.
“Our model is an enterprise model. For a large entity, such as a hospital or a wide network of healthcare professionals, we give them a standalone version of Wellola, with their own branding, database, server and so on.” says Deasy.
“We’re really passionate about providing healthcare providers with the tools to deliver professional healthcare anywhere,” she says.
“Online consultation systems in both the public and private sector help in maximising available resources, retaining or re-engaging talented staff, facilitate triaging of waiting lists and increasing reach to remote, underserviced areas.”
A collaborative approach
Based at the Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin, Wellola has collaborated with other Irish-based entities — Stripe, DNM Group and AWS Ireland — to enhance the functionality, security and local hosting of its system.
Recently awarded the Integrated Care Award by the Irish Medical & Surgical Trade Association, Wellola has been backed and funded by the European Institute of Technology and Innovation and by Enterprise Ireland.