Due to COVID-19, the demand on charitable clinics, the nation?s health care safety net, is now greater than ever, and additional capabilities are needed to help combat the impact of the pandemic on their communities. But unlike hospital systems and large clinical networks, charitable clinics lack the human or technological infrastructure to manage the tremendous demand, specifically the increased volume of telephonic requests for information, referrals, clinical care related to COVID-19, and clinical care unrelated but impacted by COVID-19. The influx of patient calls has led to unnecessary high-risk visits to the clinic for issues appropriate for telemedicine, and increased emergency room utilization due to clinic overload. In addition to exposure risk, health and financial outcomes are impacted when staff cannot appropriately triage and manage telephonic requests. The goal of this research is to assess the efficacy and feasibility of an innovative technology tool, HelplineSOS, to offer a decentralized telephonic triage solution so that charitable clinics can rapidly answer non-emergency calls related to COVID-19. The project will be conducted by Sostento Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to help organizations on the frontline of public health emergencies in ways that will save more lives, with the support of a local research manager and experts with specialization in telephonic triage systems.

The critical research questions of this project are 1) to explore the ability for the technology to produce the patient and system behavioral outcomes (reduce high risk clinic visit, burden staff with questions better answered elsewhere, and triaging away from ERs), and 2) to determine the acceptability and adoptability of a new technology such as this. The research follows a successful pilot and proof of concept deployment of HelplineSOS. The Georgia Charitable Care Network, a charitable clinic network, has identified additional clinics to adopt the tool and participate in a study to determine efficacy of the technology and feasibility for a state-wide deployment. It is expected that project outcomes will enable approaches that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on public health, society, and the economy.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)
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Ephraim Glinert
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Sostento Inc.
United States
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