How technology is boosting the physician and patient experience at Jefferson University Hospitals

Jefferson Health's Innovation Pillar has been at the forefront of pioneering ways to improve healthcare delivery and clinician education.

In 2014, the health system reintegrated Thomas Jefferson University and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals to operate under four pillars, including innovation. The Innovation Pillar tests new business models and fosters entrepreneurialism for professionals, students and others within the health system to create value.

The Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) group at Jefferson rapidly develops consumer-oriented and value-driven solutions that address key problems in healthcare. Here, Vice President of Digital Design and Consumer Experience at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals Viraj Patwardhan discusses current initiatives and the system's strategy for improving the patient experience in the future.

Question: What is the strategy behind your innovation department?

Viraj Patwardhan: Our CEO, Dr. Stephen Klasko, has been very involved in our innovation department from the beginning. His vision is to reimagine the way we deliver healthcare. From the innovation side, we are working on solutions to teach physicians to become more empathetic. Our hospitals are leading the way in delivering care at a high level, but patients also expect their physicians to connect with them on the human level. We help integrate this message into the physicians of tomorrow.

Q: How does the innovation team work together to accomplish your goals? What is the composition of the team?

VP: Neil Gomes, Chief Digital Officer who also leads the DICE group worked closely with Dr. Klasko at USF Health. His main focus was to generate ideas to improve the care of our patients and the education we give to our patients. with the goal of generating ideas to improve the care for our patients and education we give to medical students. The DICE team consists of development, training, implementation and design teams. The design team is of 30-plus people that include process design specialists as well as individuals with visual design, medical and communications backgrounds to execute our strategy.

Q: How do you stay ahead of the curve with your innovation? What trends are you paying attention to?

VP: In terms of physician and nurse education, they typically receive all their training in the brick and mortar institutions. But that isn't necessarily the way of the future. We are giving them information that they need to remember, but it could be six or nine months before they are asked to recall or apply that information. We need a different way to help them learn and apply that information right away. This is particularly important for physicians and nurses that are going into emergency situations at the hospital.

Last year, we developed our own extended reality, a mix of augmented reality and virtual reality, lab that works with clinicians, specifically nurses, to create content that will enhance and supplement the education.

Q: What are some examples of how technology could improve the patient experience? How do consumer trends from other industries impact healthcare?

VP: We think that someday all technology will integrate seamlessly with healthcare, and more people will take advantage of telemedicine. But in the future, it will just be medicine. Dr. Klasko gives the example of when we go to ATMs, which has become a common term. We don't say we're doing tele-banking. Jefferson wants to truly make telemedicine mainstream where it becomes just another office visit. The more we talk to millennials we have realized that they find it useless to drive an hour to see the physician when they are sick. They want to conduct the visit over video in a comfortable place. The same is true for parents of small kids; if the kid is sick, they don't want to bundle him up and take him to the doctor just for the doctor to write a prescription based on symptoms.

The problem we are trying to solve is: how do you take care to the patient without making the patient come to you? There are many online shopping examples. I don't go to the store anymore; I do my shopping on the computer. That's one area where we are trying to apply trends from other industries to re-imagine healthcare.

Finally, one other thing we are doing is expanding the access to care, which is a huge problem. In some cases, patients aren't able to schedule an appointment with a physician for months, and when they finally do, they have to jump through several different hoops. But if I want to book airline tickets or a hotel room I can go to and easily book whatever I need based on openings. We want to make scheduling physician visits just as easy so that you can choose which physician you want to see, how soon you see them or schedule a telemedicine visit right away. The gratification is much higher.

Q: Since you launched your telehealth program more than three years ago, what has changed? How is the program evolving?

VP: We now have on-demand visits patients can do online, which are popular especially for follow-up visits. If you see your physician for the initial visit, then you can follow up via telemedicine and you don't have to take another day off of work. We are also doing second opinion telemedicine visits now with patients in other states.

Patients are taking the leap into telemedicine, but the people who really need to interact with healthcare aren't influencing this trend. The generation of patients who need to see their doctor more, those over the age of 40, aren't high utilizers yet. Adoption will be higher with time, as millennials start to need their physicians more, because they prefer digital communication.

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