VCU Health is growing patient volume & retention — Here's how

Successful navigation of the healthcare landscape requires organizations to keep apprised of evolving regulations, clinical improvements, payment models and emerging technologies. Now, amid the rise of healthcare consumerism, the patient experience can be added to that list of concerns.

In a May 29 webinar sponsored by Envera Health and Evariant, and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, healthcare industry experts discussed consumerism and how it's changing patient expectations. Participants also discussed what Richmond-based Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCU Health) is doing to improve both patient experience and patient retention.

Panelists included: Alexa R. Warner, manager of the strategy and marketing department at VCU Health; Erinne Dyer, executive vice president of growth at Envera Health; and David Roth, vice president of product marketing at Evariant.

The state of healthcare consumerism today
A slew of new healthcare deals and partnerships — including the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan healthcare venture as well as the CVS-Aetna deal — are set to change the way care is delivered. Ms. Warner asked a question that is top of mind for many in the healthcare industry: How do we meet patients as consumers where they are?

"Everyone wants to be touched in a personalized way," Ms. Warner said. "As the Amazons and Netflix and Googles of the world become more like public utilities than the icing on the cake, [personalized service] becom[es] the expectation. And we're having to innovate at what feels like lightning warp speed, when we should have been at this table 20 years ago. We're really trying to catch up."

The fight to attract the healthcare consumer has begun in earnest. Mr. Roth noted healthcare access is expanding everyday with the advent of retail health clinics and telehealth, among other new care options. Additionally, health systems are crowding the market, resulting in more competition. And finally, the internet is giving patients the ability to research healthcare options from the comfort of their home.

However, acquiring patients is only half the challenge. Retaining patients is key to building long-term patient-provider relationships. Loyalty drives profitability, Mr. Roth said, but loyalty is declining among younger populations, including Gen X'ers and millennials.

Patients are becoming savvy consumers because increasingly the burden of cost is falling on them, Ms. Dyer said. They are beginning to understand costs and are demanding a superior experience. Ms. Dyer said consumers most want responsiveness, convenience, affordability, transparency, choice, access and personalized care. And they are willing to pay more for what they want.

"It's really about that front door," she said. "If you want to maintain loyalty, if you want to maintain a committed, connected experience with your consumers regardless of their level of health, you really have to respond to them as they are starting to expect responsiveness from the rest of the industries around us, especially when it comes to access and convenience."

What VCU Health is doing to grow patient volume and retention
VCU Health partnered with Evariant in 2015 and implemented the company's end-to-end solution in 2016. The Evariant Patients for Life Platform™ supported VCU Health's engagement campaigns by providing actionable intelligence to acquire and retain patients, as well as near real-time feedback on the results of particular campaigns.

After two years of customer relationship management campaigns, one important takeaway for VCU Health is that while webforms are a critical component, many consumers still want to pick up the phone and talk to someone before making an appointment. At this point, the data they were capturing showed part of the consumer journey, but to close the loop, they needed to ensure that 100 percent of the campaign inquiries receive timely follow up — regardless of whether the consumers choose to complete a web form or make an inbound call.

So, VCU Health added Envera Health to their CRM campaign services team to support the delivery of a more integrated, personalized and omnichannel experience for their consumers. In this new model, Evariant and Envera Health help VCU Health maximize their conversion of campaign leads into patients, close the loop to improve ROI and increase loyalty to the health system.

"It's really about communication and human beings that are there and prepared to interact with other human beings when they need it," Ms. Dyer said. The VCU Health marketing team and its partners look for three types of campaign subjects when deciding what type of campaign to launch:

• Elements of care deemed an institutional priority
• Elements of care driven by consumer choice
• Areas of care that have access and low wait times

Getting a campaign ready for consumers includes building out creative assets, such as landing pages and selecting the best calls to action and target demographics, according to Ms. Warner. While this is happening, Envera Health is working with the VCU Health marketing department, practices and service line teams on scripting, workflows and FAQs to centralize communications and standardize processes.

What VCU Health is seeing
Since establishing these partnerships, VCU Health has achieved many of its patient growth and retention goals. For example, it has increased the count of prospective patients scheduled for appointments, responded to 100 percent of campaign inquiries and increased the media budget to support customer relationship management campaigns.

The partnerships have also transformed VCU Health's marketing department. Ms. Warner described VCU's new approach to patient growth and retention as having a "halo effect" on all aspects of the marketing team's duties.

"It's changed the way that we ask questions," Ms. Warner said. "It's flipped our role from the order-taker to being at the table and being a member of that operational team. And not just the senior operational team, but the clinical operational team [as well]."

Learn more about Envera Health here and Evariant here.

View the full webinar here.



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