To design patient-centric care, ask patients what they want

At HIMSS19, Novant Health execs will give the ins and outs of patient-focused care design
By Jonah Comstock
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At Novant Health Physician Network in North Carolina, designing for the patient has been the hospital’s driving force for some years, especially when it comes to online interactions.

“We started back in 2010 or 2011 as we were rolling out our electronic health records,” Novant Health Physician Network chief operating officer Dr. Hank Capps told MobiHealthNews. “We made a philosophical decision to build the whole thing around how patients would experience it, which seems like a common sense thing, but back then records were being built around physicians and billing as the key drivers. Meaningful Use was at its peak. We went all in on creating experiences for patients inside and outside the four walls of the clinic. From there we did things early on like online appointments and opening up scheduling templates to make it more available to patients, to virtual visits, eVisits, or video visits.”

Today, more than 900,000 people use online tools to connect to the health system, Capps said, and Novant has continued to use patient experience, and direct patient feedback, as its guiding principal.

To that end, the health system recently launched its electronic patient family advisory council, or ePFAC.

“It’s essentially about 4,000 people that have proactively signed up to engage with us in brief surveys we send out a couple of times a month … and what we do with that is we share that feedback with operational leaders as they are working on their different projects,” Stephanie Landry, Novant Health Physician Network’s director of communication and engagement, said. “What we have found is that it’s very powerful to have that patient voice at the center of our decisions and we weight that voice heavily. … And I think we’ve been surprised at the number of folks who have voluntarily agreed to engage with us in this way, and also the quality of information has been instrumental in informing our operational decisions.”

At a presentation at HIMSS19, Capps and Landry will talk about what it takes to operationalize a patient-first mentality. At Novant, they’ve found that it requires nimble rollouts and buy-in from all parts of the enterprise.

“When we are adding additional functionality to the online experience, whether pre- or post-login, we roll out big, which means sometimes we fail quickly,” Capps said. “But most of the time it’s been this amazing thing where we’ve learned a lot and rolled out this cool new service to patients without the bumpiness or the time lag of expensive piloting and that kind of stuff.”

Landry said the most important piece of advice for health systems looking to learn from their example is also the simplest.

“I would probably say, in line with ePFAC, if you wonder what the consumer wants, instead of making assumptions, just ask them,” she said. “And as we expand our venues of care to include digital touch points, it is imperative that we carry through that relationship continuity that our consumers want and expect.”

Capps and Landry will offer more insights at HIMSS19 in a session titled “Creating the Next Generation of Digital Engagement.” It’s scheduled for Thursday, February 14 from 8:30–9:30 a.m. in room W304E.

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