UNC Health Increased Mobile Patient Engagement by Encouraging Vendor Partnerships

UNC Health, based in Chapel Hill, is a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina.

It’s not only renowned for its quality, but also for its highly competitive environment. 

Seeking a competitive advantage, in December 2019, UNC Health launched its consumer-facing mobile app to conveniently provide the UNC Health experience to patients and families via their smartphones. Powered by the Gozio Health mobile engagement platform, the UNC Health app provides quick access to the patient portal, physician directories, urgent care wait times, and online appointments. The app also offers Gozio’s patented wayfinding with blue-dot navigation of the hospital campus.

In August 2021, UNC Health expanded their app experience by working with Gozio to complement their urgent care services. They added the “Immediate Care Near You Map” which, in addition to wait times, also shows the urgent care and emergency departments closest to the user’s current location. In the first few months after launching its mobile app, UNC reached around 10,000 installs and over 60,000 sessions. Since then, the growth has been exponential, exceeding 200,000 downloads after nearly 3 years.

UNC wanted to augment its app to provide patients with enhanced wayfinding and appointment reminder features to drive higher engagement so they approached Gozio and Artera® (formerly WELL Health) about a collaboration. The UNC Health team had worked with both companies before and was confident they were the perfect partners to execute their vision.

By integrating these two technologies together, UNC Health leveraged the natural synergy between the companies to create a more seamless experience for their patients. The health system integrated Gozio-powered wayfinding with the Artera patient communications platform to give patients the option to download their app. Due to its API and integration capabilities, Artera was able to create a smart phrase that was stored in Gozio’s hyperlink to pull in unique appointment information. The hyperlink was inserted into every Artera-generated appointment reminder, enabling patients to download the UNC Health app if it wasn’t already on their phones. In the first week of the link going live, there were 4,500 clicks.

“From an end-user perspective, we focused on creating a frictionless UNC Health experience and that’s where I think this is really unique,” said Dan Dodson, System Director, Digital Health and Innovation at UNC Health.

Two new features resulting from the collaboration provide easy access to appointment information for patients:

  1. “Smart Links for Appointment Reminders” allows a patient to click a smart link to download the UNC Health app when they confirm their appointment from a text reminder. The smart link also drives the user to the correct app store based on whether they are Android or iPhone users. To further enhance the user experience, when the patient clicks on the smart link, the UNC Health mobile app will automatically open to their appointment location providing them quick information on the clinic and the ability to get detailed driving instructions using their preferred mapping application.
  2. “Save and Go from the Mobile Calendar” enables patients to save the appointment to their mobile phone calendar with an embedded link. When patients click on the link, the app opens and automatically brings them to the appropriate location page within the UNC Health app providing wayfinding directions—both outdoor and indoor—from the patient’s current location to their appointment location, in addition to the appointment time and clinic name.

In a continued effort to enhance the patient experience, UNC Health wanted to use this new functionality to adapt to patients’ habits and preferences, so they also implemented a new appointment reminder cadence. Across the health system, patients now receive a seven-day, three-day and one-day appointment reminder for upcoming appointments—updated from only a three-day reminder. After realizing that directions and wayfinding solutions may not always be appropriate seven days prior to their actual appointment, the option to add the appointment to a personal mobile calendar using the “Save and Go from the Mobile

Calendar” feature created an improved patient experience. Now when it’s the day before their appointment and patients receive the one-day reminder, they can just as easily open their calendar or click on the link and get the details they need for their appointment along with turn-by-turn navigation from home to parking to the point of care.

The integration between Gozio and Artera helped to further UNC Health’s mission to improve patient engagement by increasing UNC Health app downloads by 443%. After the new appointment reminder messaging cadence was implemented, it became the predominant marketing vehicle for the app.

UNC Health found that once patients started using the smart link to download the app, they also discovered all the other features they could access such as the Find-a-Doctor provider directory or patient portal, and overall, patient engagement increased. Dodson said, “I can put up billboards or do banner ads but when you as a patient get an appointment reminder and it’s a call to action that’s relevant, people will click because there’s value there. The smart link is more effective than any external advertising for getting patients to download the app.”

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