By Jamie Roberts, Editorial Director

Individuals might choose a hospital based on its reputation for clinical excellence, but they stay loyal to those systems that emphasize a positive patient experience. Customizing a better patient experience using technology was the lesson of several hospital systems presenting at HIMSS 2018, which convened 45,000 health IT professionals this week in Las Vegas.

With the shift to value-based care emphasizing patient satisfaction measures like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS)—not to mention social media sites such as Healthgrades and Yelp capturing the good, bad and the ugly of patient reviews—hospital systems are compelled to deliver better patient experiences that differentiate themselves from the pack, build customer loyalty and drive profitability. Dignity Health, a large San Francisco-based health system, is working with startup Docent Health to deliver such an experience for their maternity patients.

At Santa Maria, California-based Marian Regional Medical Center, one of the pilot sites for the Dignity-Docent partnership, empathic, service-oriented professionals dubbed docents connect with expectant mothers prior to arrival to educate them on their benefits and help them get access to prenatal education resources. Docents regularly contact the patient via call, email and text throughout the pregnancy journey, answering questions and pointing them toward services. Even after the patient is discharged from the hospital, docents have also helped Dignity clinicians identify postpartum depression and other issues.

Though the program emphasizes human connection, it is underpinned by technology. The hospital analyzes data from patient surveys and electronic health records to anticipate patient needs and preferences. Docent’s CRM makes digital engagement easier: Docents text or email answers to a patient’s care questions promptly and efficiently, filling in the gaps in patient expectations for which clinicians might not have time to meet. This allows clinicians to do more precise rounding and concentrate on medical needs.

The results have been promising: Last year, the system earned an 80th percentile in HCAHPS overall rating, up from 65th percentile from the previous year. It has seen a 3 percent overall year-over-year net growth against a contracting market with increasing competition. According to Candice Monge, chief nurse executive officer at Marian Regional, the increased engagement not only builds patients’ trust, but also likely helps clinicians intervene sooner. Dignity Health is hoping to scale the program across its enterprise.

Takeaway: Marian Regional’s engagement program for maternity patients is tech-enabled, but the human connection is paramount. As you build relationships with clients, find ways to inject humanity into every encounter, from the discussion of the driest financial spreadsheets to the analysis of mountains of data. Listen more empathically, respond more quickly to their needs/desires/complaints, and be willing to get into the scrum with them to solve their challenges.



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