Patient Activation Has An Easy Button, and It’s HIPAA-Compliant
The difference in consumer experiences between retail and healthcare is pretty clear. One proactively prompts you to spend more time and money, in the channel of your choice, and seems to anticipate your every “need.” The other sends you a postcard or a letter, won’t let you do anything until you execute a complicated log in, and definitely does not seem to know what you need.
Does it matter that buying a sweater is so much easier than setting up an annual wellness visit? Yes, it does, on many levels. And it’s a solvable challenge.
Why Should Healthcare be as Consumer-Focused as Retail?
As Chris Hemphill, podcast host, said on the "Will Tech & Retail Eat Healthcare?" episode of Hello Healthcare, “when you think about visiting the doctor or the hospital, does convenience come to mind? Probably not.”
A quick look at recent entrants into healthcare shows that improving the healthcare consumer experience is a huge opportunity — because most new entrants aren't traditional healthcare providers.
“You’ve got large organizations with customer experience or patient experience in their DNA,” says James Gardner, Managing Director, Topline Partners, one of the guests on the podcast. “They’re relentlessly competitive. They’re well resourced. And even if it’s not Walmart, it’s going to be Amazon or it’s going to be CVS, or it’s going to be Walgreens. They smell opportunity for many, many reasons, and they’re not going to stop until they take market share and deliver care that is different and perhaps better than what people are currently experiencing.”
Wal-Mart opened its first stand-alone clinic in 2019, and now has more than 19 other clinics (and has expanded into telemedicine). Amazon launched Amazon Clinic in 2022, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) telehealth service available in 32 states, and recently bought One Medical, a membership-based primary care organization with more than 125 clinics. That model in itself is another disruption to how healthcare is delivered.
On that same podcast, talking about concierge practices, Sheetal Shah, Senior VP at Woebot Health, said, “they use the words ‘human centered’….they use the word ‘proactive’ … and they talk about ‘outreach.’ They speak to the fact that 81% of consumers are dissatisfied with their healthcare experience. And they name a few reasons why. Hard to access, long wait times, inconvenience. It’s all about those friction points that we know so well in healthcare.”
For healthcare systems to stay viable, they need to capitalize on the same consumer experience pain points, and transform them.
How Healthcare Can Win Consumers – Without Jumping High Hurdles
If convenience and knowing the customer are vital to today’s consumer, and the new entrants are really good at offering both of those capabilities, can traditional healthcare compete?
Absolutely. Healthcare can use the same tools retailers use, and already shares the same philosophy of focusing on the patient like concierge medical services (just look at any hospital or healthcare system’s mission). What’s needed is to leverage AI to make sense of the data they have to drive action. As a healthcare provider, guiding your highest risk patients to what they need is the most value you can deliver – for the system but most importantly, for the patient.
AI for Patient Activation
The reason shopping online is easy is because retail not only personalizes the outreach, but also connects with the consumer at the right time with the right action. Retailers do that by taking millions of data points and turning them into actionable insights.
Healthcare can do the same, and even better, faster. With CRM intelligence, healthcare systems can use AI-driven propensity models to identify at-risk patients and predict next-best actions in a matter of a few months. In other words, they can use the data they already have in their electronic medical records (EMR) to know who needs preventive screenings and who is due for an annual wellness visit.
Combine that with an easy path to activation – like text messaging with links to set up appointments – and you’ve hugely increased convenience for your patients. That’s what most retailers do: they make it convenient to buy with a click. Healthcare can make it convenient to book an appointment with a click by sending the right message at the right time to the person. And they don’t need to invest in complicated technology to do what retail does.
AI for Capacity Management
On the back end, CRM Intelligence can optimize capacity in the form of appointment availability. That’s a triple bonus: service lines and call centers aren’t overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) with volume; patients aren’t frustrated they can’t get an appointment; and the healthcare system can dynamically throttle volume for the kinds of appointments they need.
“Primary care is the gateway to secondary and tertiary care,” says Actium Health VP of Marketing Alan Tam. “As a healthcare leader, suppose you need more volume in a service line. All of those appointments will come through referrals. And our system knows who among your patients is likely to need those services. By reaching out to them proactively, and making it easy for them to see a primary care doctor, you can improve patient activation at very low cost – and most importantly, live out your mission to improve health and save lives.”
Use the Easy Button for Win in Healthcare Consumer Experiences
Most healthcare systems simply don’t have the technology infrastructure to mimic big retail overnight. But they don’t have to. Using what they already have – EMR – and CRM Intelligence (like CENTARI from Actium Health), they can drive patient volume and optimize patient mix in as little as 14 weeks (no tech stack needed).
Virtua Health, a large health system with 400+ locations, wanted to reach more patients with health issues related to severe obesity. They had two goals: increase understanding of health risks through educational tools as well as directing them to solutions like bariatric surgery. (Bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for severe obesity, but less than one percent of the eligible population get it.)
Getting the Right Tools for Identification and Attribution
Virtua’s technology infrastructure wasn’t set up to identify or reach those patients effectively. Their patient data was siloed and hard to access, making it difficult to identify the right patients. Plus, even if they could do the outreach, their measurement, reporting, and attribution tools were in their infancy – how would they know if their outreach worked?
Working with Actium Health, they were able to develop a prioritized target list among their patients based on multiple variables in various datasets.
Because Virtua Health was able to identify the right target patient list – patients who would benefit from the educational materials and resources they offered – they experienced high engagement with their educational material (40%) and more than 8,500 appointments can be attributed to their outreach. And those appointments weren’t just for bariatrics, but also for pulmonology, nutrition, and primary care – all visits that those patients needed, but wouldn’t have scheduled without Virtua’s outreach.
Healthcare Can Know Better – and Do More – to Stay Relevant
At times the news for healthcare can seem grim. With staff shortages and supply chain issues, plus new entrants into the industry, from other medical models to completely different industries jumping in, it may seem that traditional healthcare systems are at risk. But with a relatively low investment of time and budget, the same tools that make retail succeed can work for healthcare, with even more impressive results. After all, knowing what pants go with a new sweater is fun, but getting the healthcare you need when you need it – that’s life-changing.