Online forward triage during the COVID-19 outbreak

Hautz, Wolf E.; Exadaktylos, Aristomenis; Sauter, Thomas C. (2021). Online forward triage during the COVID-19 outbreak. Emergency medicine journal, 38(2), pp. 106-108. BMJ Publishing Group 10.1136/emermed-2020-209792

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Health systems face major challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic with new information and challenges emerging daily and frequently changing guidelines. Online forward triage tools (OFTTs) provide useful information, direct patients and free physician resources.We implemented an OFTT targeted at the current pandemic, adapted the content and goals and assessed its effects. The OFTT was implemented on 2 March 2020 and modified regularly based on the revised testing criteria issued by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. After testing criteria liberalised, a chatbot tool was set up on 9 April 2020 to assess urgency of testing, referral to available testing sites and need for emergency care.In the first 40 days of the OFTT, there were more than 17 300 visitors and 69.8% indicated they would have contacted the healthcare system if the online test had not been available. During the initial week of operation, using the conservative testing strategy, 9.1% of visitors received recommendations to be tested, which increased to 36.0% of visitors after a change in testing criteria on 9 March 2020. Overall, since the implementation of the tool, 26.27% of all users of the site have been directed to obtain testing. The Chatbot tool has had approximately 50 consults/day.Setting up an OFTT should be considered as part of local strategies to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. It may ease the burden on the healthcare system, reassure patients and inform authorities. To account for the dynamic development of the pandemic, frequent adaptation of the tool is of great importance. Further research on clinical outcomes of OFTT is urgently needed.

Keywords: clinical management; efficiency; emergency department utilisation; management; risk management

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > University Emergency Center

UniBE Contributor:

Hautz, Wolf, Exadaktylos, Aristomenis, Sauter, Thomas Christian


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BMJ Publishing Group




Romana Saredi

Date Deposited:

16 Dec 2020 08:14

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:43

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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