What health systems need to 'win in every market'

Healthcare is becoming a consumer-based industry as patients have more freedom to choose when and where they receive care. Hospitals are adjusting their operating models as a result.

"The healthcare system all over our country has traditionally built its processes around those that provide the care," Peter Banko, president and CEO of Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass., told Becker's. "That doesn't work anymore for our consumers in what has become a consumer- and digital-centric world."

McKinsey's consumer Health Insights Survey found 45% of consumers are researching providers and in-network costs before choosing a health plan, and 44% are doing similar research before making an appointment. Patients are researching two to three providers before making a decision, prioritizing high-quality organizations and good reviews from other patients. The report noted clinicians with 50-plus reviews are more attractive to patients, and nearly half of patients focus on quality ratings when making their decisions.

Availability and proximity to the patient are also important. Patients don't want to wait for care and are likely to search for other options if they can't schedule an appointment in a timely fashion. Around 45% of appointments are now booked 24 to 72 hours in advance, according to the McKinsey report, and independent medical groups are able to accommodate that 28% of the time while health systems accommodate three-day availability 17% of the time.

"If you want to win in any market, be the first to tackle (and start fixing) consumer access," said Mr. Banko. "Over the last year, we started a transformational journey to become a more consumer-driven system."

Baystate's emergency department teams redesigned processes to reduce the number of patients who left without being seen to less than 1%. The health system built LinkED to support caregivers while they developed a one-call system to connect patients in the ED with appointments to visit physicians, get images and other follow-up care.

"Surgeons crafted policies and system to impact OR throughput, start times, turnover times, block scheduling and overall efficiency," said Mr. Banko. "Multidisciplinary care teams, spearheaded by hospitalists, designed standardized work for care management to improve quality, safety, service, length of stay, and transitions outside of acute care. There was great work around scheduling in the patient enterprise and in the transfer center for access to tertiary centers."

UVA Health in Charlottesville, Va., is also undergoing a big transformation with a focus on access. The health system's 10-year One Future Together strategic plan centers around providing a united and best in class experience for patients throughout their care journey and increasing access to care with the "One Team" initiative.

"UVA Health has seen tremendous progress since the One Team launch, creating up to a 30% increase in available patient appointments, which, when this work is complete, will mean tens of thousands of new patient visits annually for UVA Health," K. Craig Kent, MD, CEO of UVA Health and executive vice president of health affairs at University of Virginia, told Becker's. "This growth will occur without the expansion of staff or facilities, and with some increase in the number of providers."

The health system is also actively measuring patient experience data, and validated improvements from the 83rd percentile to the 88th percentile by making it easier to schedule appointments. More than 80% of patients now say they are able to schedule appointments during the first call.

"We expect the transformational One Team work will continue to pay dividends for patients and team members alike as it continues to roll out across our remaining clinics," said Dr. Kent.

Access has also been a key priority for Chapel Hill, N.C.-based UNC Health. Ashley Arey, vice president of care access, leads a team responsible for blueprinting initiatives to "revolutionize" the access experience for patients and care teams, she told Becker's.

"The engagement was successful, yielding several robust initiatives inducing expanding and integrating access centers for a unified, consistent scheduling experience, and expanding online scheduling across specialties, putting more self-service options into the hands of our patients," she said. "Equally important to our 'front door' access experience was to develop strategies that support improved capacity management."

The capacity management initiatives at UNC Health include improving referral pathways and tools, using analytics to elevate capacity gaps, and strengthening virtual care strategies so patients can access care at their convenience.

The executives featured in this article are among the 400+ speakers at the Becker's CEO+CFO Roundtable Nov. 11-14 in Chicago. Health system executives, apply for complementary registration as a reviewer here. Limited exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities available. Download the prospectus here.

Mariah Muhammad, Writer, Custom Content + Events, contributed to this article.

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