A well-developed strategy has determined the trajectory of Banner Health’s transition to healthcare consumerism. Healthcare has arrived at a consensus: the medical industry is less about the patient and more about healthcare consumerism.
After all, consumerism has emerged as top of mind for most healthcare stakeholders. Nearly all medical providers are recognizing that they need to address the patient as a consumer – not as an individual seeking medical care – to compete in an expanding market that is now seeing the likes of Google, Amazon, and even Facebook.
But the challenge is, many healthcare organizations don’t know how to do this. While there is no dearth of products to support consumerism in healthcare, organizations are forgetting to develop a thoughtful strategy for addressing consumer pain points.
“Folks tend to try to find the solution that that fits all patient needs but doesn’t fit into a strategy,” Chris Pace, the senior director of digital marketing at Banner Health, told PatientEngagementHIT.com. “That’s where a lot of systems are coming up short. They find themselves saying, ‘hey, this effort was a big investment and wasn’t a success.’”
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“That’s because they hadn’t really thought about the patient journey, the pain points that exist in that journey, and what’s solvable with digital tools versus what requires an organizational redesign of the experience, whether it’s been billing or in other care venues,” he added.
At Banner, it’s been all about strategy first, or determining where the Arizona-based health system is falling short in the consumer experience and then selecting the digital tools that can fill those gaps. First and foremost, Banner addressed patient access to care, reconfiguring how the health system schedules appointments and establishing a digital front door in all care sites.
“We have the great luxury of having a strong continuum of care from the lowest levels of acuity retail clinics and urgent care all the way up to post-acute, hospice, and home care,” Pace explained. “But one of the biggest challenges is that in Arizona we’re under a significant physician shortage, so panels are full. We’re having to find ways to grow while supporting the system and recruiting physicians.”
And as most medical industry experts know, clinician shortages can impact the patient experience, specifically when it comes to patient care access. If there aren’t clinicians to treat patients, patients can’t receive care.
That’s where strategy came in. While Banner was able to recruit new clinicians, it had to think of how it could fill new clinician panels, boost productivity, and make appointments available to patients in a way that made sense for them.
How could the health system utilize the new healthcare technology marketplace to fulfill this strategy goal?
Leveraging technology from Kyruus, Banner health implemented an online appointment scheduling system and a consolidated call center, streamlining the patient access process. Selecting that tool came with a number of considerations.
For one, Pace and his team liked that new patients who have no prior affiliation with Banner are able to use their platform to self-schedule.
“This is a really important strategy that allows our organization to grow and enables our physicians to become their own marketing machine,” he said. “They can build up their profiles and focus on growth and retention rather than worrying about how they get their panels filled up.”
And that approach has paid off. Seventy percent of individuals using the online booking tool are new to Banner, meaning they have never had a Banner experience in urgent care, the emergency department, in a hospital, or a clinic.
The tool is optimizing provider – and patient – schedules, too. In the three to four months Banner has had the online platform, it’s seen about a thousand scheduled appointments, 60 percent of which have already been fulfilled.
“We always thought that people would use the platform to try to find same-day appointments, but that’s actually not true,” Pace reported. “Consumers are using the tool to schedule around their lives and they’re booking as many as 28 days out in advance.”
Those statistics are important for providers who might be on the fence about implementing online appointment scheduling, Pace pointed out. Making same-day availability for clinicians can be a near impossible task, he acknowledged, and creating a mechanism that could facilitate demand for same-day appointments might seem daunting.
But this tool has proven useful for optimizing appointment scheduling for both the patient and the provider.
“It’s just a matter of, ‘hey, just make your schedule available, and we’ll let consumers dictate how they want to book,’” Pace stated. “If there are doctors with same-day appointment availability and that’s what a consumer wants, they will choose that adventure. They don’t need to be guided.”
Pace and his team also had to consider the various ways patients want to access healthcare. After all, patients are unique, and what works for one might not work for another.
“One of the keys to creating stickiness in healthcare is to understand who your customers are and what their preferences are,” Pace said. “Whether a patient shows up at an urgent care or books online for a primary care appointment or shows up in an ER with emergent needs, we need to do a better job of understanding who our customers are, what their preferences are, how often they’ve engaged with us so that we can provide a more personalized experience for them.”
That part of the strategy requires data, and lots of it. Pace and his team ensure that data is available no matter the touch point so Banner Health employees can best serve consumers.
For example, Banner’s EHR and call center systems allow staffers to access consumer – not patient – data for individual callers. If a mother of two logs into the online booking system to schedule two pediatric appointments, the system will automatically generate only back-to-back appointments, knowing that a parent will want to optimize her time.
Call center technology will follow similar protocol for individuals calling to book their appointments, Pace said.
“Having that information at the fingertips of our agents and our patient-facing staff in clinics and hospitals is really the next level of customer experience that we are investing heavily in,” Pace stated. “We know how important it is to understand our consumers and to build an experience that they will want to return to.”
And these capabilities are available across all entry points, Pace confirmed, helping to meet the needs of different populations with different experiences. Data shows that Baby Boomers might not want to schedule their appointment online, and that’s okay, Pace said.
Banner’s system still needs to understand these consumers to deliver care the way they want, which is why an aligned call center and online booking tool is so important.
“We’ve created a call-in, click-in, or walk-in experience that ties all of this information together,” Pace assured. “The root of all of it is a customer relationship management approach. Having an integrated call center provides the same levels of experience and availability of access, whether you’re checking it online or via phone. We need to make sure that the experience is consistent no matter what touchpoint our consumers are deciding to use.”
Although Banner has only deployed this fully digital and consumer-centric front door for a few months, Pace said the investment is paying off. Patients are taking advantage of these systems that truly serve their needs, he noted, and are attracted to access tools that fully optimize their experiences.
“By making a tool available, consumers are demanding it and using it in droves,” Pace concluded. “As we build this alignment to customer and consumer behavior, the data is showing that the consumers are embracing it and it is delivering material growth to the organization.”
Source: Patient Engagement Hit