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HIStalk Interviews Kelly Boyd, SVP/GM, Sonifi Health

March 27, 2024 Interviews No Comments

Kelly Boyd, MBA is SVP and general manager of Sonifi Health, the healthcare division of Sonifi Solutions of Sioux Falls, SD.


Tell me about yourself and the company.

I’ve been working in healthcare technology for about 20 years. The bulk of that time has been in product development and operations. I have spent time with the customer success and sales aspects.

Sonifi Health is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sonifi Solutions. Our parent company serves hospitality and other commercial markets. Sonifi Health focuses exclusively on the healthcare market. Within Sonifi, both the parent company and our subsidiaries, we have an underlying theme that our goal is to simplify the delivery and operation of technology so that our customers can accomplish all that’s possible when technology works. Technology is great, but it needs to complement the organization where it’s being deployed. Our role and our goal is to simplify that process, make it seamless, and make it valuable to the organizations that deploy it.

We still fundamentally align ourselves with the Triple Aim initiative that was launched by IHI back maybe 2007 and later modified to the Quadruple Aim. We want to enhance the patient experience, improve health outcomes, and drive operational efficiencies. That translates to both cost reductions and staff satisfaction. That is where we live. All of our technologies — smart room technology, staff technologies — are built fundamentally to go after those initiatives. 

You emphasize that healthcare is hospitality. Do you think that most hospitals see it that way and invest accordingly?

I do. We’ve doubled down on this, because in technology and healthcare tech, we can get so caught up in technology itself. The hospital’s mission is patient care, and at the root of that is compassion, comfort, and health outcomes. That essentially is the real meaning of hospitality.

We have launched with that messaging, both to remind ourselves internally and also message to our clients that we get that technology doesn’t exist for technology’s sake. At the end of the day, everything that we are doing is about the human experience. Creating an environment that is comfortable to the patient and that reduces anxiety has a direct impact on outcomes.

Patients aren’t necessarily capable of judging the clinical aspects of the care that they receive. Does the hospitality aspect of their stay carry an outsized importance in their perceived satisfaction?

It’s interesting, because patients aren’t able to perceive different levels of true clinical care. They can attribute that “I survived that surgery, therefore it was good,” but they can’t really assess where that surgery ranked on the spectrum. What they can definitively create is the perception about how they felt were treated and the hospitality side of the care that they received. People can articulate those things more than they can the true clinical aspects of healthcare.

Patients sometimes complain that technology, such as a physician charting in the EHR, is distracting. How do they see in-room technology and smart rooms?

There is no downside to the technology from the patient perception side. We have seen bumps in hospital patient experience scores simply from bringing in smart room technology. Patients translate high tech, cutting edge, state-of-the-art automation technology to better care. Whether that is a fair translation or not, it happens.

People are human, and investments on the hospitality side impact our perception of the quality of care that we are going to receive. Is my room nice? Is the furniture nice? Is the TV nice? Anything that a hospital does to to move to a smart room to enhance the environment impacts the patient’s perception of their quality of care, and to some extent, how they will perceive their outcomes.

Your website cites a study that found that patients who use an interactive, in-room system are more likely to also use it to follow education recommendations. How can hospitals use that finding?

We found that the entertainment side of it draws people into the system. You want to watch that movie, listen to the music, engage with spiritual content, or whatever those entertainment pieces are that bring the patient into the system. The system is then designed to capitalize on the fact that the patient is engaged with the system.

We will strategically prompt the patient to engage in their care as well. That can be learning about their condition, how the recovery will go once they go home, things that they should watch for once they leave the hospital, and what they need to do to plan and prepare for their discharge. We leverage the entertainment side as a way to pull the patient in, but once they’re in the system, you have all kinds of opportunities to put the important information in front of them.

Do you engage family members in that process?

We love involving family members. When you’re a patient, there is a little bit of anxiety. You’re unsettled. Your ability to grasp the information is much different than a family member. We encourage the family members. We know that the the information lands and and sticks a little bit better when the family members are the ones participating, especially when you’re talking about young children or the adult caregivers of their elderly parents. The family members play a big part of it.

As a parent, I’ve been in the hospital with my kids and I was starved for information. What’s next? What should I expect when I take my son or daughter home? We see a lot of engagement with family members with the system.

How will patient engagement technologies be used outside the four walls of hospitals, such as with hospital at home or virtual hospitals?

This is a trend based on initiatives to reduce costs. It’s clear that the more comfortable the patient is, the better healing, recovery, and outcomes that you’re going to see. The challenge for everybody in healthcare — healthcare tech providers, payers, all of that — is educating patients across the board on health literacy, recovery, lifestyle changes, behavior, and all those things. Companies like Sonifi are trying to increase the engagement and activation of patients so that they can be successful in a home care or hospital at home environment.

How widely are hospitals using digital signage and way-finding?

Most hospitals have some type of digital signage in play. There is a need to continue to get information into the hands of patients and visitors. This could be population health content, where you have people sitting in waiting rooms and have an opportunity to get the right controlled messaging content in front of patients and family members. Signage is everywhere. There’s a lot with branding and marketing of the health system’s mission and vision.

With way-finding, you’re talking substantial institutions that exist on campuses and multi-building setups, where they are trying to make it easier for patients to navigate the campus and get where they need to go.

For Sonifi, we have the nationwide field service organization. We are already providing technology, the breadth and depth of our knowledge of infrastructure, and these type of messaging tools. This becomes a complementary solution for us that we can deliver alongside our more clinical applications.

What are your thoughts about having worked for the same company for nearly 30 years?

When it comes to Sonifi and Sonifi Health, I really love the people that I work for. We’re based in the Midwest, so we have an organization of people who are really committed and care. That “Midwest nice” thing really comes through with the group. I have people in my team who have been here 30 years as well. I have people who have been here 15 years and they joke that they’re the newbies. 

The group believes in what we do. They care about the patient. They care about the the nurse and the clinician. They care deeply about the operations person who is trying to run and manage the distribution system. Everybody is behind what we’re doing, which makes it easy to come to work every day and makes it easy to stay and commit with the organization.

What factors will be important for the company over the next few years?

We are tracking the movement away from inpatient new construction dollars to the outpatient side, with more short stay-focused, hospital-led home initiatives. Interoperability, security, data exchange, and seamless experiences across multiple facilities are big on our radar as well.

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