Patient demand for a digitized healthcare experience exploded during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not only did telehealth visits spike dramatically amid rising coronavirus cases, but healthcare consumers also showed a preference for providers offering online scheduling. Further, about 65% of people plan to continue to use telehealth after the pandemic ends, according to a survey conducted early this year by The Harris Poll.
This increase in technology use is driving health systems to retool and improve their patient-facing solutions to ensure a streamlined digital experience.
Alexandra Morehouse, chief marketing officer at Phoenix-based Banner Health, found that constant communication was key when working to streamline patients’ digital experience. Though the streamlining process was not without its challenges, it did make the health system more agile, she said.
Via email, Morehouse provided details on how the 29-hospital system employed technology to improve the patient’s care journey.
Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.
Question: Why did the pandemic prompt Banner Health to further streamline the patient journey?
Alexandra Morehouse: Banner accelerated the ‘touchless’ customer experience in order to keep our patients safe. We implemented 100% availability for virtual visits with all our physicians, a virtual waiting room so patients can wait in their car before coming into a clinic, as well as an online symptom checker with a dedicated module for Covid symptoms. We also implemented online appointment scheduling for Covid tests, physician visits, vaccines and flu shots.
Question: What have been some new opportunities to enhance the patient experience that came about as a result of the pandemic?
Alexandra Morehouse: Once the pandemic began, we immediately began doing extensive surveys each week in order to keep up with our patients’ needs and concerns. Every week, we analyze real-time feedback and make both operational and communications changes based on what the public tells us they need and want. Because of the urgency of the pandemic, Banner became much faster and more agile at making changes to the customer experience.
Question: What types of technology has Banner Health implemented over the past year to streamline patient experience?
Alexandra Morehouse: We have implemented natural language [processing] software in our contact centers because we handle over 50,000 calls each day and need to be able to detect trends and problems on a day-to-day basis. A cloud-based call platform also allowed us to quickly move all our representatives to work from home.
We also implemented a customer relationship management platform so that we could cascade updated messages to employees on a daily basis. This CRM tool allows us to send highly personalized messages to millions of customers, with timely updates from their individual physicians. This allows Banner to manage 20 million inbound and outbound contacts each year.
Finally, we upgraded our web platform to handle dramatically increased volumes — currently Banner is the 10th most-visited website out of 10,000 health system sites nationwide.
Question: What were some of the challenges of streamlining patient experience and implementing new technology amid the pandemic?
Alexandra Morehouse: One of the major challenges was making changes at the same time as we were seeing dramatically increased traffic in all of our customer channels. Call volume was up 60%, web traffic up 40%, traffic on social platforms was up over 400%. Making technology changes in the face of this was quite tricky.
Question: What are Banner Health’s plans to improve patient experience in the year ahead and how will technology play a role in those plans?
Alexandra Morehouse: The Banner board of directors has approved a significant investment in the next tranche of technology tools to take the customer experience to the next level. Digital therapeutics, pre-fill and automation of visit forms, physician referral tools and more will be the next step in the customer experience.
Photo: sesame, Getty Images, Banner Health