Due to COVID-19, most hospitals were forced to move faster than planned toward a stronger digital health patient experience.
HonorHealth, a nonprofit health system with six hospitals and 70 primary and specialty care clinics, was no exception. But instead of scrambling to put together a plan at the last minute, the health system already had a digital roadmap laid out. All it needed was a global pandemic to kick-start it.
The health system started thinking about improving the digital health experience in 2018. It created the Customer Technology Council, which was a group of IT, operations and marketing leaders whose goal was to listen to what patients wanted — and then, come up with technologies and processes that could serve their needs.
Based on what they heard from patients, the team created a three-to-five-year plan to introduce these foundational technologies:
- Physician data management
- Chat bot and live chat
- Patient portal tools
- Video visits
- Symptom checker
- Care triage
- Online scheduling
At the Contact Experience Conference (CEC), Seth Kaplan, director of marketing and customer engagement at HonorHealth, and Joe Meersman, technical architect at Palantir, shared how they managed to implement some of these changes within a matter of months, not years.
“Because of COVID-19, the three-to-five-year plan shrunk down to a three-to-six-month plan,” Kaplan says. “There was a new urgency to move forward with virtual care offerings. People didn’t want to come to our offices if they didn’t have to it. There was a bigger burden placed on our call center because people were calling and asking questions about COVID-19 and vaccine availability. We saw a huge increase in our website traffic. We wanted to make sure we had enough self-service tools on there so that patients could find what they were looking for.”
HonorHealth decided to focus on several of these digital tools, including online appointments and location sync.
A key element to achieving these changes was getting buy-in from stakeholders. To do so, the team led workshops, interviews and produced progress reports for stakeholders.
Through their research, they found that each stakeholder group had different needs. For example, when it came to online scheduling, each group had different priorities. The call center team wanted to make the interface easy so that patients wouldn’t need to call for an appointment; the medical group prioritized making it easy to find available appointments; and the health information management team was concerned about duplicate patient records.
“We helped present the vision for online scheduling to internal stakeholders by giving the HonorHealth team mock-ups of the interactive designs and functionality features,” Meersman says. “We made sure HonorHealth stakeholders knew they were heard by showing them how their voice was represented in functionality.”
Location sync was another priority. For example, all the stakeholders wanted consistent location data to flow from credentialing through the website to the chatbot. This was something the team could do quickly and furthered the goal of self-service for patients.
But there was a snag.
“Credentialing has a different purpose for the data than we do for marketing,” Kaplan says. “There might be a lot of addresses where a physician is credentialed to work, but they might only work at one location. We have a lot of OBGYNs, but not all of them deliver babies. We made a calculated risk — we put all the data up there and soon, patients and physicians realized that it wasn’t ‘clean.’ Once our stakeholders saw how it looked and what problems it was causing, it got everyone excited to fix the issue.”