Upping the ante on the digital patient experience — key thoughts from NYU Langone CIO Nader Mherabi

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More than a year ago, NYU Langone endeavored to look at the patient experience in a holistic way for its more than 400 ambulatory locations across New York. Part of that strategy has included developing more convenient locations that are closer to home or work for New Yorkers, keeping the onsite locations clean and pleasant; another part has to do with technology.

The digital engagement aspect of the patient experience has been a particular focus for NYU Langone Health’s CIO Nader Mherabi, who aims to maximize the digital touchpoints across the system. Here, Mr. Mherabi discusses the health system's strategy and where it's headed in the future.

Question: How are you innovating to improve the patient experience from the technology side of the health system?

Nader Mherabi: We are learning from other industries, including finance, travel and shopping, about how we can improve the patient experience. In addition to our many ambulatory locations, we have a big telemedicine program. People in New York can visit our website and pick an appointment and which physician they want to connect with for the visit. They can see an emergency doctor without going to the ER or another specialist from a remote location.

Our physicians are licensed for telemedicine for patients in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Florida. That makes it convenient for patients and their families to schedule virtual visits. We also have telemedicine programs across the city for pediatric care and pediatric psychiatry.

Beyond that, we have a multi-tiered strategy that includes our website with search engine optimization and social media to really engage our patients. We want to make sure they can find our locations and download our app to make appointments. Our app has been really well received.

If patients don't want to use our app, we have more than 750 kiosks across our locations that allow people to input their information digitally.

Q: Tell me more about the health system's app. What can patients do with it? Are they adopting it?

NM: Yes. Patients can schedule appointments or follow-ups on the NYU Langone Health app, get prescriptions refilled and securely message their physicians. We have seen a several hundred percent increase in the use of online scheduling and our kiosks over the past few years. They are used every day and have been a great option. We realize there will always be people who would prefer to call and set up appointments, but more and more people are using the app and they report loving it.

Q: For patients who aren't as tech savvy, how have you built out your call center?

NM: For patients who don't want to use the NYU Langone Health app, we have an optimized call center that is fully integrated into the patient's electronic medical record (EMR) and leverages Salesforce Customer Relationship Management technology. When the patient calls and our agent picks up the phone, our phone system automatically pulls up that patient's information, so the agent can see which physician that patient saw and schedule their appointment more quickly. Instead of having to get that information from the patient, we already know who the patient is and can call them by their name. We also validate to make sure the person we have connected to that phone number is accurate, like credit card companies do.

Then we focus on really engaging with the patients as they make their appointments. Through this process we were able to reduce call times by more than a minute, and we get around 3 million calls per year at our call center, even with the push to interact with people online. This efficiency makes a big difference for us.

Q: What other lessons have you learned about consumerism from industries outside of healthcare?

NM: From the consumer side of the entertainment market, we learned about how important it is to have a quick response time so the patients find the answers they're looking for faster. On our website, we implemented a chat feature that pops up when people are on our website for a certain period of time. If people can't find what they are looking for, our chat function can help.

We also learned about the importance of text message communication our patients from the airline industry, and we developed our kiosk strategy based on how the airlines set up at airports as well. Patients appreciate receiving notifications via text about changes and updates, and we are seeing a significant cost savings from that because our team isn't spending time calling them. We are borrowing from other industries, but we also know that healthcare is unique, and our ultimate goal is to serve our patients and their families.

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