How HSHS Medical Group meets consumer need through virtual care

Virtual care is undoubtedly on the rise as healthcare adjusts to the demands of consumerism. Individuals want changes in the way they receive care. Instead of seeking out a hospital and health system, consumers want care to come to them.

"The opportunity with virtual care is to meet the consumer where they are," Carena President & CEO Ralph Derrickson said during a March 15 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review. Through partnerships with more than 120 hospitals, Carena offers on-demand care through its virtual care model and technology platform.

Springfield, Ill.-based HSHS Medical Group seized that opportunity, and now, with Carena as its operating partner, the medical group offers virtual care through Anytime Care, an online urgent care service. By implementing Anytime Care, HSHS Medical Group has been able to reach more consumers and expand its brand throughout the area.

HSHS Medical Group, which is connected with Springfield, Ill.-based Hospital Sisters Health System, is a physician organization that includes 350 providers in central and southern Illinois. Based on a recent survey, consumers in HSHS Medical Group's area are approximately twice as likely to be enrolled in a high deductible health plan than the national average. Less than half of HSHS Medical Group's commercially insured consumers are in a preferred provider organization plan.

Based on these findings and a consumer survey that measured consumers' preferences for urgent care, HSHS Medical Group came to a realization. "It became clear that our customers demanded even more convenience and better value," said Jeaneene Gesell, HSHS Medical Group's Anytime Care service line manager. "We also wanted to respond to consumers' requirements in a way that provided the best clinical outcomes."

HSHS Medical Group established a two-pronged goal in launching the service: extend the brand and back up its branding with high-quality care. HSHS Medical Group's leaders also knew what they didn't want to do: outsource all of the clinic or get stuck in a technology silo, in which its virtual care clinic was isolated from the rest of its services.

HSHS Medical Group found the ideal operating partner in Carena. "Carena offered the technology and a virtual provider network, while working under our brand," Ms. Gesell said. By partnering with Carena for Anytime Care, HSHS Medical Group doesn't have to separate virtual care services from the rest of its brand. Instead, Anytime Care is still part of HSHS and isn't stuck alone in a silo.

How Anytime Care works

After establishing the partnership, leaders from HSHS Medical Group and Carena worked together to create Anytime Care, a virtual health platform through which patients can visit with a physician or an advanced nurse practitioner for urgent care matters without an appointment. Through Anytime Care, providers can treat non-emergency conditions — such as bladder infections, seasonal allergies, flu, sinus infections and rashes — over webcam or phone.

Anytime Care, which adheres to a strict set of quality assurance guidelines, operates as follows.

  1. HSHS Medical Group uses traditional and digital marketing campaigns, including search engine optimization, to reach consumers.
  2. HSHS Medical Group then helps consumers understand which of their symptoms can be cared for virtually. Consumers can utilize Anytime Care's platform for virtual care.
  3. HSHS decided not to have their system providers deliver care to consumers — instead, Carena's providers staff the visits. However, the consumers receiving virtual care only see the HSHS Medical Group brand.
  4. After the virtual care visit, Carena providers create a clinical summary of the visit. The information about the encounter is then shared with HSHS Medical Group providers, who use the information to establish a relationship with the patient.

For HSHS Medical Group, the final step of the process is crucial. "We want to take care of these consumers for the long haul," said Ms. Gesell. "We want to build new patient relationships."

Creating a lasting relationship with patients

"Our goal of earning new patient relations is linked to our mission for patient care and to the business case attached to this service," said Ms. Gesell. How does HSHS Medical Group meet that goal? Ms. Gesell outlined four primary ways.

  • Lead data-driven improvements. Through the implementation of Anytime Care, HSHS Medical Group has gained access to a plethora of data, including email performance data, page visit metrics, consumer demographics, consumer zip codes, consumer wait times and symptoms treated. HSHS Medical Group then uses this information to improve its offerings and relationships with patients.
  • Connect with corporate marketing. Anytime Care works to promote both HSHS Medical Group and raise consumer awareness of telemedicine. "We need to tap into and extend our whole system's brand in the market," said Ms. Gesell. "We wanted our consumers to understand the video platform is a new way to access HSHS care."
  • Activate grassroots marketing. "But it isn't enough to focus on top down promotion," Ms. Gesell noted. In addition to in-person promotion at health fairs, HSHS Medical Group launched its employee access program, which gave employees covered under HSHS' health plan the ability to try Anytime Care for free. When employees tried the program, they were more likely to recommend it to consumers. "Our employees are the best source of referrals to our virtual care clinic," Ms. Gesell said. In fact, Anytime Care's public visit volume doubled when the employee virtual clinic opened.
  • Enable seamless integration. Approximately 83 percent of Anytime Care patients don't have an HSHS Medical Group primary care provider. Thus, after a virtual care visit, an HSHS Medical Group staff member reaches out to each consumer via phone or email. The staff member then connects the consumer to a primary care provider's schedule and availability. "At this juncture in the service, we are continuing to meet patients' needs," said Ms. Gesell.

Looking to the future

HSHS Medical Group is using Anytime Care to reach more consumers than it ever could without the help of virtual care. Sixty-three percent of Anytime Care patients complete virtual care visits outside priority care business hours. Additionally, Anytime Care has helped HSHS serve patients in rural communities with limited provider coverage.

Moving forward, HSHS Medical Group hopes to continue to grow its Anytime Care clinic, partially by analyzing data to understand how patients interact with HSHS after a virtual visit. In addition, HSHS Medical Group wants to expand Anytime Care to local employer populations, thereby creating new revenue opportunities.

The medical group's current efforts aren't over yet, though. HSHS Medical Group's marketing efforts for Anytime Care are ongoing. "It's not a case of 'if you build it, they will come,'" said Ms. Gesell. "It is a case of explaining to each consumer on their terms how a virtual care visit [can] help them, and then inviting them to continue a relationship with HSHS."

By matching consumers' wants and needs, HSHS Medical Group is already seeing repeat visitors to the virtual clinic. Through Anytime Care, HSHS medical group is able to expand its brand and consumers are able to receive more access to the care they need. "We're excited about the possibilities ahead," said Ms. Gesell.

To view the webinar on YouTube, click here.


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