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I consider myself lucky that we get the opportunity to partner with health systems that are committed to the same mission as Zocdoc: giving power to the patient.

One exceptional patients-first system is Indiana University Health, which is not only the largest health system in Indiana, but a nationwide leader in innovation and patient care. Innovation at IU Health extends beyond the technological: from designated Navigators working with patients to find affordable coverage, to population health efforts aiming to combat issues like addiction and infant mortality, to designing one of the most sophisticated hospital supply chains in the country.

We’ve been working with IU Health since September 2016 as part of their initiative to create new digital channels for patients to access care. Earlier this month, I sat down with IU Health CEO Dennis Murphy to discuss their strategic priorities and how technology plays a role in today’s evolving health systems.

Oliver Kharraz, CEO, Zocdoc: Can you talk about some of the initiatives you’ve invested in to improve access to care for patients in Indiana?

Dennis Murphy, CEO, Indiana University Health: At IU Health we think about our strategic priorities in two dimensions: one is a system-wide focus and one is a focus on individual patients. When we think about the individual, we’re trying to help patients design their care for themselves.

Healthcare is a very diverse market: think about age, socioeconomic status, and a full set of other variables, such as some people who are technology-friendly and some people who are technology-phobic. Within this diverse population, we’re trying to develop tools and find ways to allow patients to customize their own care.

What we’ve found is that when we offer more ways to customize care, we have much better compliance rates. If you look at our Zocdoc data, we have higher and better acceptance rates with lower no-show rates, through the use of new tools and technologies for access. For appointments booked through Zocdoc, our no-show rate is only around 4 percent. This means patients are actually coming to their appointments and getting the care they need.

At the other end of the spectrum, particularly for older patients who actually don’t like technology, we know they want a voice at the other end of the phone to help them. And when we’re able to tailor that care to what they want, they are also more compliant.

OK: And how about on a population-level?

DM: With a population-health-based platform, the goal is to find broad areas to create value in healthcare. We look for opportunities to use technology as an asset to create more efficiency in the process, to establish standards for care, and create standardized protocols that allow our care to be delivered consistently.

Technology allows us to implement these programs and best practices on a mass scale. If you only look at individual interactions, you may miss out on larger trends. But ignoring the individual patient means you have the potential to miss variability. Studying both allows for dual benefits on each end.

OK: What are the challenges to getting patients to adopt new technology?

DM: Healthcare is still a very episodic interaction. It’s not like going to the gas station or the grocery store, something you might do once a week, or even more. For most people healthcare visits are something you do once or twice a year, maybe — or sometimes even less than that. And so, when it’s very episodic, how do you make patients aware of this channel to access the service, when they need it? For our chronic patients, I think this is a low hurdle to get over, because they are interacting with us regularly. For others, who come in contact with us much more infrequently, change is a higher burden.

OK: What would you want to share with other systems about improving patient care?

DM: We’re evolving our culture to create a system of care, where all the parts connect in service of the patient. We’re thinking less and less as a collection of free-standing entities, and trying to understand: what are the right sets of resources, locations, and more to bring to patients, to help them improve their health.

In a small, rural hospital in Paoli, Indiana, that may mean defining excellence as providing frontline care for patients. And if that hospital needs to escalate a patient to a higher level of care, there are strong relationships within the region to allow that to happen fluidly. If it’s more than the region can handle, the care can be escalated within the health system.

I’m in the middle of doing a tour of all of our sites within the system. You can start to see how our mission is penetrating throughout the organization: we have evolved our expectations for what good care looks like and feels like.

Both cultural transformations have been exciting: learning how to function as a system and how to really think about how keeping people healthier across Indiana.

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One response to “Empowering Patients to Design Care for Themselves”

  1. Anne Bolger says:

    Great interview Dennis! There was a phenomenal study in Wisconsin some time ago. This supported the population assessment in order to determine priorities. For example they found not only high smoking rates but higher rates among adolescents. The consumption of cheese contributed to excess fat and diabetes and most restaurants did not have “healthy eating. “So they set goals, for example, 25% of all restaurants will have heart healthy foods on the menu. Or they suggested smoking sensation programs would be available to adolescence at no cost along with several other measures. Five years later they compared the data and saw many successes. Your actions on a system as well as community/individual perspective seems a great tactic. Good luck!

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