Think outside the app: 4 insights on creating frictionless patient experiences

In recent years, the importance of patient engagement has increased sharply. To attract and retain patients, leading health systems recognize they must communicate in consumer-centric ways. 

During a July webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Ensemble Health Partners, leaders from Ensemble and Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health discussed how healthcare organizations can create frictionless digital patient experiences. The panelists were:

  • Judson Ivy, founder and CEO, Ensemble Health Partners
  • Dan Melillo, chief digital officer, Ensemble Health Partners and founder and CEO of Odeza, an Ensemble Health Partners Company
  • Liz Blackburn, vice president, ops performance improvement, Atrium Health
  • Sarah Shaw, assistant vice president, ops performance improvement, Atrium Health

Four insights: 

1.) Health systems that fail to deliver consumer-like experiences are jeopardizing revenue and competitive advantage. Due to the "Amazon effect," patients now expect the same convenient, personalized customer experiences they receive from industries like retail, travel and banking. In addition, Millennials have eclipsed Baby Boomers as the largest demographic group in the United States. "This generation was raised on digital convenience. Any perceived barrier to access may result in healthcare dropping low on their priority list," Mr. Melillo said.

Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. "Patients are no longer coming to health systems believing that they're getting the best level of care or equipment," Mr. Ivy said. "Other factors are influencing how they engage . . . and health system leaders acknowledge they need to transform the process."

2.) Enhanced digital communications create loyalty by reaching patients where they are. Since patient adoption of portals and apps has lagged, many healthcare organizations are now using two-way integration with the EHR to communicate with patients via their preferred channel, such as text, email or an automated phone call. Text-first communication strategies are preferable to apps because the notification is the message or call to action. 

3.) Atrium Health's new communication program supports 24/7 connection for patients through a safe, personalized experience. "Last year we recognized the need to provide different options for patients and consumers to connect with us," Ms. Blackburn explained. In response, Atrium Health partnered with Odeza to launch consumer chat, appointment reminders, text referral management, virtual waiting and a new check-in experience. The program went live four months ago, and the results have been positive. "For appointment reminders, we've seen a 62 percent response rate and a 92 percent confirmation rate," Ms. Shaw noted. "In addition, 7,800 appointments have been rescheduled via text." Atrium Health launched consumer chat in April and teammates have chatted with over 1,200 patients. Over time, the organization hopes to see an increase in scheduled appointments online and a reduction in phone calls. 

4.) Operational leaders must be involved in deployment of digital communication tools. Atrium Health relied heavily on operational leaders during the implementation of its digital communication tools. "To ensure continuous improvement, projects need to be operationally designed and led. Our operational leaders are responsible for creating solutions that integrate with their existing workflows," Ms. Blackburn said. Other best practices include defining success metrics up front, analyzing data and listening to patient feedback. 

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