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SIOUX CITY | Gone are the clipboards and paper forms.

Family Health Care of Siouxland has replaced those check-in staples with Phreesia, a portable orange touchscreen tablet. Larger communities, including Des Moines, have been utilizing this technology for some time, according to Family Health Care of Siouxland CEO Shanin McCabe-Harding.

She said the network of clinics first looked at Phreesia a few years ago, but at the time, the technology wasn't a good fit with Family Health Care of Siouxland's practice management system.

"We re-reviewed (Phreesia) again last fall," she said. "We decided to do some additional research to see if they would fit well with our practice. Probably more practices will look at it and hopefully find that it's beneficial to them as well."

Phreesia allows patients to securely and confidentially update their medical history and insurance information, sign consent forms and swipe their credit card to cover a copay. It also administers clinical assessments while meeting meaningful use standards under the Medicare and Medicaid incentive program.

"It's going very well," McCabe-Harding said of the implementation, which took place last week. "(Phreesia) is a very nice seamless automated experience for our patients.

"It eliminates the patient filling out paper and then someone manually inputting that information into the patient's electronic chart and then scanning all of that paper so we have a backup."

Richard Andersen, a family physician at Family Health Care of Siouxland's Morningside Clinic, said it will probably take patients a little longer to check in with Phreesia at first. The clinic, which has 17 of the tablets, is introducing Phreesia use in stages.

"They're doing all of their demographic information on here, so they're updating their insurance, their address, their emergency contacts," he said. "The one thing we're implementing right now is a nine-question depression screening to kind of help us catch some of those people that normally wouldn't talk about it."

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an independent panel of primary care physicians and epidemiologists, recommends that primary care physicians screen all adults -- including pregnant and postpartum women -- for depression, a serious condition that is common among patients seen in primary care.

"We're actually catching a lot of people with (Phreesia)," Andersen said.

In the future, Andersen said Phreesia will allow patients to have more interaction with their health care provider. After entering their symptoms, he said an algorithm will generate questions based on those symptoms.

"Ultimately what this is going to do is help the patients spend more face-to-face time with the doctor," he said. "We're getting all of the information right away."

What about germs? Electronic devices can be a source of disease transmission.

Andersen said Phreesia is made of a special antibacterial material.

McCabe-Harding said the patient information physicians have instant access to is securely stored. Phreesia operates its own private wireless network within each practice.

"These are much more secure than patients coming to our front desk and filling out paperwork or us asking patients about their balances or any personal information that they would verbally have to give in the past," she said.

Elderly patients, a group that might seem to be intimidated by this new technology, are adapting well to the change, according to McCabe-Harding. She said staff are available to assist patients with disabilities that limit their use of a PhreesiaPad.

"We basically have staff available to go out into the waiting room and sit through the interview on the pad with the patient, so we've got that one-on-one support as needed," she said. "We've really found that our elderly patients do very, very well with these."

What about germs? Electronic devices can be a source of disease transmission.

Andersen said Phreesia is made of a special antibacterial material.

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Health & Lifestyles Reporter

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