CHICAGO — For healthcare organizations to better engage patients, they must dive into digital technologies and adjust how they operate accordingly, chief information officers told an audience at the American College of Healthcare Executives' annual congress Wednesday.
Health systems turn to consumer companies for inspiration and partnership
"I can buy any technology out there easily, but how does the organization take that technology and really operate?" said David Chou, chief information and digital officer at Children's Mercy Kansas City. "That's the hardest part."
Before adopting new technology, health systems must make sure they have strong governance in place, he said. That includes reframing how hospitals think of themselves and taking into account the time and resources they have spent implementing electronic health records and other software.
"You're a hospital, but you need to think of yourself as a software company," Chou said.
Just as the banking, pet and sports industries have created customized consumer experiences, healthcare should do the same and meet patients where they are, said Melissa Hendricks, vice president of marketing and communications for Cerner.
Geisinger is doing that by rethinking how billing works by boiling down everything into information that can be visualized in a pie chart, according to Joe Fisne, the system's associate chief information officer. Just like consumer-oriented companies, Geisinger offers what's essentially a money-back guarantee. In the first year of the program, dubbed ProvenExperience, the Danville, Pa.-based health system refunded about $500,000.
Geisinger also tries to engage its patients clinically, Fisne said. The health system grants patients' access to their providers' notes through OpenNotes. Medication adherence has increased 4 percentage points for patients with access to their primary-care physicians' notes, according to one study. OpenNotes also made patients more confident about managing their health, Fisne said.
In their drive to better connect to their patients, health systems might turn to other consumer experiences for inspiration, the CIO panel said. Chou cited his experience waiting for tables at restaurants as an inspiration for Save My Spot, which lets Children's Mercy patients reserve spots in line so they can do other things while they wait.
Geisinger also has reached beyond the traditional walls of healthcare to improve patient engagement. The health system has been working with Apple to push patients' health information onto their iPhones LINK, an initiative Apple announced earlier this year.
Healthcare organizations can also draw on market research techniques from outside healthcare, like mystery shoppers—people who visit a health system, go through it as a patient would and report back to the system about their experience.
Using that technique, the leadership at Children's Mercy validated the inkling they had that getting access to their hospital was "a pain," Chou said, "but once you get in, you have the best experience."
The challenge is actually applying that feedback, Chou said. "We have to take that feedback and break what we've built."
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