“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” –– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Much has been written about our industry’s need to become more patient-centric, to find ways to better engage patients, to disrupt business models, and to be more sensitive to rapidly evolving needs of patients. To wit, searching “patient-centric” produces more than 5 million hits. Words without actions are meaningless. It is time to eliminate the divide between complex health enterprises and individual people who now expect to be engaged, personally understood and involved in their care.
What are the impediments? One peculiar strategy that has persisted during the last decade is the belief that EHRs, a technology designed for back-end business processes such as billing and care documentation within the walls of a provider setting, could be remodeled into something consumers would eagerly adopt. Practitioners now understand that EHRs are necessary but insufficient to serve the advancing needs of patients. While EHRs serve an important purpose inside the confines of a health system, patient experiences are substantially influenced by what happens outside of it. This is a key reason retrofitted patient portals have not been widely adopted. Consider that neither Amazon nor Expedia tried to add a portal to their enterprise resource planning systems to make a customer-facing platform for retail sales.
These portals have failed because they simply extend functions designed for healthcare knowledge workers – nurses, pharmacists, physicians, registrars and billers – out to patients. While tacked-on consumer portals may allow patients to see portions of their medical records or interact with providers to a limited degree, these systems are transactional, driven by a care event such as a visit, admission or discharge. To further complicate matters, a typical Medicare beneficiary or patient with co-morbidities has five or more providers spread across multiple geographic locations and often using different EHRs. Asking patients to use different tools for each provider’s EHR is not being patient-centric.
This is why SCI has acquired a purpose-built patient engagement platform we can couple with our EHR-agnostic patient access platform to deliver self-service capabilities patients will actually like using. Yesterday we announced the acquisition of Seattle-based DatStat, a company focused on digital health tools. DatStat has been 100 percent focused on patient engagement for more than twenty years. More than 100 of the largest academic medical centers, children’s hospitals, cancer centers and medical research institutions have successfully used DatStat’s applications to achieve high levels of patient adoption and engagement in connection with care management, patient outreach, research, and marketing. All of its applications are patient-centric and independent of the EHR, yet have been deeply integrated with EHRs and related workflows.
Influenced by the belief that patients require something designed uniquely for them, we did years of research to identify an organization specializing in human behavioral change and patient self-service adoption to offer clients capabilities that would substantively advance their patient engagement strategies. With the addition of DatStat, SCI now operates a technology platform purpose-built for consumers that is widely adopted by patients for interaction with their providers. We also operate the nation’s best patient access platform for appointment scheduling, referral processing and revenue cycle management. By enabling DatStat to remain focused on consumer engagement while SCI focuses on enterprise patient access, we can deliver integrated workflows that bring together the best of both.
The lens through which one sees the world shapes their opinion. For those who work within a health system, looking out at the vast world of consumers, it is understandable why they would have a hospital-centric or EHR-centric view of what is best. My encouragement to leaders, however, is to view the hospital from the vantage point of a patient, along with all those concerned with their health – family and friends. Only when leaders understand how patients experience the complex apparatus of the health system can they begin to introduce innovations that result in future advantage, breakthrough service levels, and patient loyalty.