Vik Krishnan, MBA is general manager of the Intrado Digital Workflows business of Intrado Life and Safety.
Tell me about yourself and the company.
I live in Boston with my wonderful wife and three children. I studied biomedical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, then earned my MBA from Harvard Business School. I entered the digital health market 12 years ago through a company I founded. I have the probably unique distinction of having run two of the businesses in the market today that offer something similar to Intrado HouseCalls in terms of patient engagement.
Intrado’s HouseCalls business is a market share leader by far in automating mass patient engagement workflows. We serve 17,000 healthcare providers, including 400 of the largest hospitals that are using Epic and hundreds that are using Cerner.
Dental practices have offered just about every form of patient engagement technology for years. Why did it take practices and hospitals so much longer?
If you think about the longer tail of healthcare providers, small physician practices and dental practices, there is no disguising the revenue impact in a given week or in a given month of even a slight variation in patient volumes. A dental clinic is going to feel that. They may even go under with a couple of bad months. That’s probably why they were quicker to adopt. Also, any smaller institution in any market, including healthcare, is usually more willing to have a quicker and more simple sales cycle. There are more levels in the decision and more integration into the solution and the current systems at a larger healthcare provider.
All of those factors will come into play. I think that they have gotten there now, though, but you are right, it has taken longer.
What do patients gain as a benefit when you integrate a patient engagement platform with an EHR like Cerner or Epic?
We have to understand patient preferences. Certainly they vary by demographic type, and age, but essentially what a patient is looking for is a seamless experience. Surveys find that 90% of patients want automated patient engagement communications. Nearly 70% say that they want more communications and reminders that help them be compliant with their own healthcare needs and their own requirements.
What they don’t want to do is get a reminder — for example, about an appointment — and then realize that the scheduled time doesn’t work for them, but the only available follow-up action is to call the contact center. That’s a laborious process, not just for appointments, but for a recall campaign, for example. If somebody knows that they need to schedule an annual wellness visit, but now they have to call in and wait, that’s a challenge and a burden that can ultimately disengage the patient from the process.
What a patient would like — and this can only be achieved through deep integration with the EHR – is to solve that workflow through SMS. If the appointment I have tomorrow doesn’t work, why can I not just reschedule that through SMS through real-time integration with the EHR? If I know I need a colonoscopy and I’ve been reminded of it effectively, that’s great and I want to schedule it, too. Why can’t I just do that in an automatic way without talking to a human being?
Last point on this. This matters a lot for underserved communities as well, because there are a variety of differences to consider there. Some of those differences are around a preference that studies suggest for using SMS versus phone call and email. Some of it is around language. If a platform can use over 100 languages, you are more likely to deliver the patient experience that somebody wants if English is not their native language. That will improve communication health and patient satisfaction.
How do you capture the categories into which a given patient falls, such as those with a preferred communication method, a limit to how many messages they want to receive, or those who want to opt out entirely?
That is done effectively through both a solution philosophy and a support philosophy. The solution philosophy needs to be to use the hospital or health system’s EHR as the single source of truth. If the hospital or health system is using the EHR as a single source of truth, these toggles, these preferences, this information will be in there. It’s just waiting to be used.
Then the next step is a solution philosophy that leverages that data, integrates through real time like we do through APIs into the system, and is empowers that system and that hospital to get the most out of their EHR. Any hospital CIO or CMIO will tell you that they want the EHR to be the single source of truth. It’s harder to do that when many other solutions on the market don’t integrate through API as the way we do and instead use HL7. This creates a parallel EHR-like system of data and rules that live outside of the EHR.
That makes it more complex. It makes it harder for the hospital to manage this and these insights on the patients and their preferences. It also exposes the hospital and health systems — going a little off-topic here, but it’s important to mention — to data breaches and other risks. You use the EHR as a single source of truth, and you help through support the hospital or health system to do that. That’s ultimately how you achieve what I just described in my previous answer.
Everybody’s buzzword is “digital front door.” Do health systems that haven’t solved longstanding patient pain points – employee friendliness, parking and wayfinding, and accurate billing – create digital expectations that their physical reality can’t match?
We see a lot of hospitals navigating what seems like a simple concept. Digital front door seems like a specific concept, just like patient engagement seems like a specific concept, but ultimately it involves a more comprehensive solution with lots of departments and stakeholders at the hospital involved. We typically see hospitals and health systems find this process, both front door and digital engagement, to be complex and difficult.
The concept of digital front door can encompass many things. It could encompass what the website looks like. Is there a chat bot or web bot on the website? That’s for inbound. Patient engagement is often thought about as being outbound, but the way we think about it is two way. We want to facilitate, and we do, two-way patient interactions. Sometimes these will be around something specific that is happening. We want to inform a patient about an annual wellness visit, the need to get a mammogram, or something pre-post-procedure, appointment, or thereafter. But sometimes these things will be inbound. It’s not because of something the hospital wants, it’s because of something the patient is seeking. They may be on the hospital’s website, for example, and want to be able to take an action that doesn’t involve calling the hospital contact center.
We see complex RFP processes. We see hospitals engaging consulting firms to solve these problems. I certainly have recommendations on how to solve these problems, but I want to acknowledge it is a complex process and decision that is difficult for hospital decision-makers to navigate.
Is it possible to address all these patient needs, including pre- and post-procedure instructions and communication with the patient’s family, through a single technology or vendor?
It is. This is an important concept to mention. We see an evolution underway right now in the market in terms of how hospitals and health systems are viewing patient engagement. Virtually all understand that they need to send SMS reminders, for example, about appointments and related communications. Many today still view those particular use cases as point solutions, or value may be measured, for example, through no-show rates or through transactional pricing.
Some, to your point, have understood that they need a patient engagement platform, not a point solution. More broadly, a solution, a platform that is not just solving any one of those things, but that integrates, for example, in real time, not just with their EHR, but with other systems like the contact center. One that truly automates a wide range of two-way patient engagement workflows.
When you think about making a solution decision versus a platform decision,vit can be a more complex decision. But the ROI for that platform will be measured by increased revenue delivered, decreased operational costs that the hospital has to bear, and increased community health and patient satisfaction. Some hospitals and health systems are going through that process, and that frankly is the solution that we provide. Those are the types of customers that we serve and the needs we try to solve, but that’s how you get there, and that’s the difference between the solution and the platform.
To what degree are hospitals using patient-reported outcomes, such as automating a daily inquiry about the patient’s pain, medication effectiveness, or mobility?
Let’s talk about a mass notification solution and then a patient engagement platform and what the difference is.
Let’s say a hospital has a mass notification system to inform patients about the need to have an annual wellness visit. They have some success rates. Great. They get some revenue and community health has improved. Nice job.
Now if they have a patient engagement platform that truly integrates in real time, it can automatically identify which patients need to be informed about an annual wellness visit. It can drive those interactions, but it can also capture those patients, for example, who say, “I actually declined, I don’t want to have an annual wellness visit.” You can record that information and report it in real time back to the EHR.
At some point, that patient will come in and talk to a physician, maybe their PCP, about something else. The PCP, through a platform — not just a mass notification system — will have that information in the EHR that will allow them to know the decision the patient made and have a conversation with them about why they made that decision. This is about holistic care, which ultimately drives patient satisfaction and improves community health. Doing that actually also improves the hospital’s satisfaction scores and care quality scores, just knowing why if somebody didn’t want to do something, why that was and what happened after.
I’ll give you another example of an outcome through a platform, not a mass notification system. We worked with one of our customers, Kettering Health Network, to automate the process of collecting patient self-reported data, which was manual. That saved Kettering Health Network, through automated SMS, nearly $1,000,000 in annual spend. There’s a financial outcome that a platform can deliver. There is a community health and patient outcome that a platform can deliver. You cannot get those outcomes through a more basic mass notification tool.
Do health systems and practices do a good job of not overwhelming patients with poorly designed or poorly targeted messages?
For our solution, we adopted a concept of augmented intelligence. You can broadcast every message to every patient about everything, which will probably create the dissatisfaction and disengagement that you just described. You can also ask a patient to go log in somewhere to a portal, download an app, and go log in there and get whatever information that the hospital wants the patient to get. Every study shows that if you ask a patient to log in somewhere, they’re less inclined to do it. They probably don’t know their login and they will never get that message. The message may not even be tailored to them.
An augmented intelligence patient engagement platform integrated into the EHR knows when a patient needs to hear what and when. Once one of those automated workflows is set up by hospital staff, it runs. It can be monitored and reported on, but it doesn’t need to be manually managed. A platform like that will reach out to patients about the right thing at the right time and collect responses. That makes it more tailored, more personalized, and ultimately more effective.
What changes do you expect to see in your business over the next few years?
We have adopted a process of continual innovation. The biggest hump to get over — and we are increasingly doing this in our new logo deals and also our customer base — is that it’s not a point solution that you need. What you’re getting from us now and what you need to adopt from us now is a true augmented intelligence patient engagement platform.
But once they make that leap, and many of our customers already have made that leap with us, then it is not hard after that to continue to add new workflows that increase automation and ultimately help healthcare providers, hospitals, and health systems do three things — increase their revenue, decrease their operational burden and costs, and improve community health and delight patients and increase their satisfaction. Once the customers we serve and the customers that we are adding are over that hump, they will continually add more and more automated workflows that we are delivering.
Do you have any final thoughts?
I’ve described the concept of a point solution and a platform. While we excel at delivering some of those point solutions, our mission in this business is to offer the platform. If a healthcare provider in your audience is interested in a true platform that digitally transforms their organization and does what I’ve described, I would urge them to reach out to Intrado or to me personally.