Best patient experience innovations at 17 health systems

As patients pay more out of their pockets for care, either through high deductible health plans or health savings accounts, they expect more than a good outcome. They want quick and efficient care and communication with their physicians. Technology plays a big role in making that possible.

Seventeen hospital and health system executives talk about the biggest innovations they have implemented to improve the patient experience.

Ed McCallister. CIO of UPMC (Pittsburgh): More than ever, patients expect their experience with healthcare providers to reflect the personalization and ease of use that they find online in so many other aspects of their lives. For example, at UPMC, we’re delivering that kind of experience through our implementation of an industry-leading biometric technology, across 27 hospital campuses and physician practices to check-in patients during the registration process using simply the patient’s index finger.

With over 600,000 fingerprints captured to date, UPMC aims to use biometrics to create a personalized consumer experience by enabling a faster and more convenient self-check-in process while also preventing identity theft and fraud, and increasing patient safety and quality.

Daniel Barchi. CIO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (New York City): We use telemedicine to make board-certified emergency department physicians available to patients whenever and wherever they need them. We do rapid virtual visits in our EDs, but any patient can also have a visit from one of the kiosks at a Duane Reade/Walgreens location around New York, or from their phone via the NewYork-Presbyterian app. In five to 10 minutes, patients have their encounter and prescriptions sent digitally to their local pharmacy.

Bruce Darrow, MD, PhD. Chief Medical Information Officer of Mount Sinai Health System (New York City): While there is a lot we've done at Mount Sinai of which I am proud – launching video and chat-based care, using data and machine learning to improve hospital care and safety and sharing more information with our patients through Open Notes and our portal – surprisingly the innovation that I see having the biggest ‘wow’ factor for my patients is electronic prescribing of medications. While it seems simple in an age of big data and connected health technology, seeing the immediate gratification for a patient watching me send prescriptions to a pharmacy in under 30 seconds is hard to beat.

Aaron Martin. Executive Vice President and Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Providence St. Joseph Health (Renton, Wash.): Providence's Digital Innovation Group developed a digital platform that delivers quick, convenient, digital access to care. Over the past three years, the platform has introduced Providence to hundreds of thousands of new patients who want same-day care in-person at a clinic, remotely through virtual visit, or a house call. The platform reduces friction for patients in seeking and receiving care while delivering superior economics to the health system. We’re now partnering with other health systems to expand the platform beyond Providence.

Pete Marks, PhD. Vice President and CIO of WakeMed Health and Hospitals (Raleigh, N.C.): One of our most recent technology initiatives was the launch of WakeMed’s wayfinding and patient engagement app. We wanted to offer a singular platform for patients – one that put all the tools, features and advanced capabilities in one place. With the WakeMed All-Access App, patients have access to their WakeMed MyChart patient portal and medical records as well as a robust ‘Find a Doctor’ database. In addition to wayfinding, app users can also schedule an appointment, reserve their seat in urgent care, check up-to-date emergency department and urgent care wait times and access virtual urgent care.

Jake Dorst. Chief Innovation Officer of Tahoe Forest Hospital District (Truckee, Calif.): Working closely with my CFO and her team, we helped to bring to life their vision of a true patient access center that allowed for a 'one call does it all' mentality. Coupled with a financial customer service program, this innovative new service won our CFO the outstanding public servant of the year award.

Eric Yablonka. CIO of Stanford (Calif.) Health Care: We have been focused on the Guided Patient Journey. One exciting innovation is enhancing our custom-built patient engagement application MyHealth, which has over 600,000 subscribers. We have modified it to not only provide an experience when our patients are outside the hospital and have physician visits, but now also as they are admitted. The application automatically helps them upon arrival with blue dot navigation of our facilities, changes context to an inpatient view, providing information about their care team and physicians and their daily schedule. It also provides content for process and procedures including patient education, releases test results while the patient is in the hospital, allows for the ordering of meals and services and provides the ability to message their physician.

That along with the in-room technology will allow the patient to also control their room environment we believe, is a great progression for our patients and their experience with us. We plan to continue to upgrade the application going forward with even more features and functionality.

Viraj Patwardhan. Vice President of Digital Design & Consumer Experience at Jefferson Health (Philadelphia): Jefferson Health’s Digital Innovation & Consumer Experience (DICE) Group recently piloted a smart-speaker concierge system in 11 hospital rooms at Jefferson Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia. The voice-activated smart speaker aims to make the patient's stay easier by answering questions about the hospital, controlling the TV, and many other features, in turn maximizing the care team’s time for clinical questions. Unlike many commercial smart speakers, Jefferson Health’s venture into voice assistance is HIPAA compliant and keeps patient information secure. Jefferson Health developed the system in-house over the past year by leveraging HIPAA-compliant software from Google.

Leonard Achan. Chief Innovation Officer of Hospital for Special Surgery (New York City): Better PT is a company that was founded by an HSS surgeon and entrepreneur and they created a digital solution for physical therapy. Patients can use the tool to look for open access for physical therapy. One of the changes in healthcare is giving patients physical therapy without having a primary care provider. Open access has been executed, and this platform allows patients to open the app and find a physical therapist. The app follows patients through the physical therapy process. This is very important because it brings together the best practices of mobile and geolocation technologies.

Michael Minear. Senior Vice President and CIO of Lehigh Valley Health Network (Allentown, Pa.): The Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) has focused for years on improving how the organization serves patients/families. In a management meeting several years ago, our CEO shared the invitation that EASE sent him to receive updates on the status of a family member’s surgery. In this first introduction to EASE, we were very impressed with the reach and personalization of sharing real-time surgery status, updating a family member in Pennsylvania about a surgery taking place in Florida.

After this introduction, LVHN assessed EASE and found a unique capability to improve services to patients' families during stressful hospital events. LVHN worked with the EASE team to deploy the software, and the project has been successful well beyond the original vision.

While LVHN has supported patient portals for years, EASE is the first software application LVHN has deployed for the families of patients. LVHN first deployed the EASE software in December of 2017, and it has since been deployed to all seven LVHN hospital campuses. EASE is being used in all LVHN operating rooms and is now being rolled out to critical care units, and to cardiology cath labs. Further expansion to the NICU and PICU care units is planned by the end of summer 2019.

To date, our clinical team members have sent more than 75,000 EASE messages and the software has been used by over 8,500 families and loved ones. The geographic breadth of EASE for LVHN is amazing, as families and friends in all 50 states have connected to the LVHN EASE application. Another favorite metric of EASE use is that over 48,000 emojis have been shared by family and friends using EASE.

Peter Kung. System Vice President of Innovation and Virtual Health Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System (Broomfield, Colo.): When it comes to access and experience, SCL Health has recently launched a program that opens up 90 percent of our physicians' schedules in our Denver region for open and direct online scheduling (expanding to all our regions by the end of 2019). This is coupled with the ability to also digitally check-in before the patient arrives, fill out any necessary paperwork, and pay any co-pays and bills which has made a powerful combination of new functionality to improve customer experience.

LeTesha Montgomery, RN. Vice President, Operations and Patient Access, Houston Methodist: One innovation we recently implemented to improve patient experience has been an electronic communication platform that allows our patients to easily text directly with their provider office. Using an enhanced appointment reminder text message, patients can text back to cancel/reschedule appointments, inform the provider office if they are running late, and ask any general frequently asked question a patient may have. Patients don't have to log into another website or download an app. They simply text their physician office. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, not just from patients but also among our staff. They now have the ability to send automated reminders and texts to patients, allowing them to more easily communicate and establish a connection even before patients arrive for an appointment.

Sue Murphy, RN, BSN. Chief Experience Officer of UChicago Medicine: We implemented care experience technology that enables our nurses and other team members to have meaningful conversations with patients throughout their hospital stay during mobile rounds and again during post discharge follow-up calls. It is important to capture patient voice, understand their goals and concerns, and encourage shared decision-making. Human-centered technology helps us monitor and manage patient experience at critical touchpoints along the healthcare journey, proactively identify risks for noncompliance, and pinpoint opportunities for improvement. Data collected with the digital health tool also helps us identify high-performing staff members, who are recognized and celebrated.

Renee Fosberg. Senior Director and CIO at Emerson Hospital (Concord, Mass.): A major initiative underway at Emerson is to increase the 'digital front door' opportunities for our patients to access Emerson services. We are currently investing in telehealth solutions for our patients, which will enable them to receive more accessible and convenient care. We have piloted tele-visits with a subset of primary care physicians and will be looking to advance the rollout to more offices in the upcoming year. We have planned investments this year to introduce telehealth to our Emerson Homecare service offerings, including access to nursing and remote monitoring of vital signs for patients with chronic diseases.

Jason Glenn. Director of Revenue Cycle at OhioHealth (Columbus): Effective patient engagement includes enhanced healthcare billing communication. Recognizing the increasing need to streamline bill paying processes for patients, OhioHealth, a not-for-profit system of hospitals and healthcare providers located in Columbus, Ohio and surrounding areas, partnered with RevSpring to consolidate patient records from across 12 hospitals and over 200 ambulatory care sites across Ohio so that patients can quickly view and pay bills.

As patient financial responsibility increases with out-of-pocket costs and high deductible plans, it was important for OhioHealth to identify ways to make it convenient for patients to pay their bills no matter what hospital or practice they visit. Through RevSpring, OhioHealth patients can access quick pay — entering their account number and date of birth. With two clicks, they can now pay their bill leading to an easier self-pay process and quicker payments overall.

Traci McNeil. Executive Director of Brand at Southcoast Health (New Bedford, Mass.): Southcoast Health continues to work on exceeding our patients' expectations with our expedient appointment booking options and our mobile app based telemedicine tool, Southcoast Health on Call. We are also excited to be utilizing AI technology to streamline our patient inquiries and maximize efficiency with our Chatbot SAM. (Simplicity And More) SAM says 'Hi!' the moment a user visits our website, ready to help with a variety of patient inquiries. By offering the latest technologies we are greatly improving the customer experience by delivering fast, convenient, expert healthcare.

In addition, we offer online appointment scheduling, which allows patients to choose from a list of primary and specialty care providers to book when it is convenient for them. Our urgent care centers also have a ‘save my spot’ so our patients do not have to wait longer than they need to for care.

Richard Temple. Vice President and CIO of Deborah Heart and Lung Center (Brown Mills, N.J.): We have recently rolled out a tool that will automatically send a text message to a patient's cell phone shortly after they depart the hospital with educational information about the medications that have been prescribed for them, locations of nearest pharmacies, and, in some cases, the ability to enjoy discounted pricing on particular drugs. While it is early in the deployment, the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive — well in excess of 90 percent.

This type of program has legal considerations that must be fulfilled, such as assuring that the patient has signed appropriate consents to allow us to text them and advising the patient that they can opt out of texts at any time. This is one of those opportunities that we were very eager to pursue, while recognizing that there would be some logistical hurdles we would have to conquer in order to do it properly.

The big lesson for us is: 'if it feels like the right thing to do for a patient, go with your instinct and see it through to conclusion, even if it looks like it could be challenging.'

Samantha Guthman. COO of Alexander Valley Healthcare (Cloverdale, Calif.): We started using Luma Health’s patient access solution to help us confirm appointments and backfill open spots with our clinicians. We initially adopted their workflow and processes for delivering information and went live in February of last year with mobile-first patient engagement technology, which includes customizable messaging and the ability to backfill appointments. When a patient confirms, we place them on the active wait list. If another patient cancels, Luma Health automatically finds someone on the waitlist to populate and fill that spot. We were excited about the system because it did that without any overhead or manual oversight from us. Since implementing Luma Health, we have backfilled 68 appointments per month without manual implementation.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Laura Dyrda at

Join us at the Becker's Hospital Review 5th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference Oct. 9-12 in Chicago. Learn more and register here.


Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars