Startup Insider: 4 questions with Docent Health CEO Paul Roscoe on patient-driven healthcare

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In late 2015, Docent Health was founded to address rising consumerism in the hospital setting.

As patients become a larger segment of the hospital payer mix, they are increasingly seeking control over their own healthcare decisions. However, hospitals often struggle to meet these needs. Although roughly 90 percent of healthcare leaders cite improving key elements of the consumer experience as a high priority, only 30 percent have instituted practices to do so, according to a recent Kaufman Hall report.

Docent Health uses a two-armed approach to improve patient experience. It starts with data-driven customer research to create personalized care plans for each patient, considering how social factors like support networks or budget concerns might influence their preferences. The Boston-based startup then connects hospitals with trained Docent liaisons who collaborate with clinicians to guide patients through their care journeys.

"The Docent Health approach is data-driven, but more importantly, it's about having a conversation and listening," says Paul Roscoe, CEO of Docent Health. "It's about empathy. It's about ensuring that patients feel known and valued. Human-to-human interactions must be the core of healthcare delivery moving forward."

Mr. Roscoe spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about why centering the patient is imperative today — in spite of an often "paradoxical" relationship he sees between technology and patient-driven healthcare.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Can you tell me a bit about Docent Health's mission?

Paul Roscoe: We exist because health systems are starting to realize focusing on cultivating patient relationships is no longer just a nice thing to do — it is a business imperative. Moving from episodic, physician-centric care to journeys designed around the patient is not an easy transition, but progressive health systems understand the key to building sustainable, enduring patient relationships is by combining positive clinical outcomes with great experiences.

With our human-centered approach, we don't view patients within the confines of the EHR, or even just within the four walls of the hospital. We take a longitudinal view of the journey. We collect data on things like social support and household budget concerns, which help us understand how likely a patient is to advocate for their own health or adhere to a care plan. The patient isn't just an amalgamation of test results, medications or diagnoses, but a person with human needs, hobbies, interests, fears and anxieties.

Q: What challenges do health systems face when establishing patient relationships?

PR: A paradoxical outcome of the digitization of medicine is we've made care and outcomes better, but have removed the humanity from the process. The clinical protocols and checklists in place fail to take into account that each patient is a unique human being; clinicians talk about "the knee in room 425." A critical gap is that we don't capture and share information about that patient as a human being — their fears, preferences, constraints. As healthcare delivery tips more toward being data-driven, it is critical the data is not merely clinical, but that it tells the story of the patient as a person.

Q: How does Docent Health fit into the broader healthcare landscape?

PR: The consumerization of healthcare is a defining characteristic of today's industry landscape. More and more hospitals are hiring chief experience officers and conducting "empathy training" sessions for their staff. But adapting to this consumer-centric environment requires more. It's a fundamentally different approach to the way healthcare has operated for the last decade, and it demands new strategies, tactics and technologies.

Our work is mission critical for health systems because we unite technology and people to streamline improvements in patient experience. Our workflow platform and our people are complementary to EHRs and clinicians. We collaborate with clinical staff to share our insights to further their ability to view patients holistically, rather than just sick people in hospital beds who need to get well to be discharged to keep costs down.

Q: What advice do you have for other health IT companies focused on patient satisfaction?

PR: Commit to listening to your clients. They are seeing patients each day, in the operating room, at the bedside and post-discharge. It's critical to work in partnership with health systems to continuously improve your technology and processes. The most innovative health IT companies commit to building the solutions that meet their customers' needs and enable their success — day after day, week after week, month after month. Smart health IT companies work towards their 'North Star' and keep their mission in mind, but adapt and change course as needed. Ultimately, patients' lives are at stake and that's an incredibly powerful motivator.

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