Ravi Kalidindi is the CEO of Simple Interact Inc. that provides Front Office Automation solution that helps healthcare providers improve profitability and efficiency by enabling them to acquire and retain more patients, while also automating repetitive tasks to efficiently handle high patient loads. They address front office concerns such as: Online Reputation, HIPAA Compliant Patient Intake Forms, Effective Marketing of Ancillary Services, and Automated Reminders.
I talked to Ravi Recently about his experiences.
CHANDRESH: How did you get into this?
Ravi: I have 20 years of experience in IT Building software. I work with a lot of fortune 500 companies especially in custom software. I saw there’s always an element of every software that has to do with customer engagement. I decided to build Cloud Based engagement solutions. Once I got started, I realized, a) With regular client server it takes a longer time to make a decision and b) you can’t build a single solution for all industries.
I quickly realized that healthcare is one area where they are behind times in technology adoption and they don’t have time and inclination to learn technology, it needs to be a turnkey simple solution. What attracted me to this:
1. Lot of activity in healthcare
2. There was an actual need
3. There was room for innovation for simple solution for patient and staff engagement
CHANDRESH: That’s your initial research. How long have you been doing this?
RAVI: 5 years
CHANDRESH: Has your initial research been justified in these 5 years?
RAVI: Absolutely, we realize more and more that extreme simplification and low friction in terms of adoption is necessary for software to successful.
Top challenges that small independent practices face and how automation can help
CHANDRESH: When you deal with practices, what are the top challenges that small independent practices face? Why is such a service better than physical, human calling patients?
RAVI: Small practices are usually understaffed, they can’t hire too many people. There are a hundred different things that the staff has to do and its easy for them to forget all the stuff. It makes a lot of sense, especially the repetitive tasks to be automated. There’s no need to waste valuable staff time on repetitive tasks. It is better to automate those things. Use that saved time for high touch patient engagement where they take time to smile, talk to patient and improve patient experience.
Patient Responsiveness to Automations
CHANDRESH: Practices certainly cannot afford a lot of staff. In these years, what have you learned? Are patients responding to such messages?
RAVI: Absolutely. The numbers prove themselves. We receive very high participation rates
eg. 30% + participation rate on our surveys.
We see a lot of patients giving positive reviews,
Over 80% patients filling forms.
That would be a surprise because many practices know from experience that patients don’t want to use technology; we always prove them wrong. They also have this experience from the patient portal. They have this doubt that very few people use the portal, we proved them wrong by showing them we can get over 80% of patients to fill forms ahead of time online. In other words, adoption rates are very high.
Pew research says 80% of US citizens have a smart phone.
Every smart phone has 3 things, it has email, it has text and it has a browser. So rather than forcing people to download apps and all this complicated stuff, if you just use those 3 tools, you can get very high participation rates, in addition making things simple, very visual. Its very significant in terms of getting very high participation rate.
Elements of Patient Engagement
CHANDRESH: So what you mention about the success, you pointed out 3 things, patients filling out forms, patients doing reviews, appointment reminders and things like that, so what are the, in summary, what are the different services that you provide?
RAVI: Our main goal is to bring more patients through the door, that is patient acquisition and patient retention. second part is making front office very efficient.
So on the first part you want patients through the door through local search results. Most patients happen to be local, they need to find you in a basic local search. Second, when they do find you on local search results, they need to see 4+ star ratings on google, yelp, healthgrades, vitals, etc not on other personalized like demandpost.com.
Once the patients come in, we want to make sure you’ll be able to quickly book an appointment; most of them show up instead of not showing up. Most of them confirm ahead of time instead of you having to manually call. Most of them fill forms ahead of time instead of staff having to hand type this kind of data into the EMR and PM systems, you automate that process and push that data through.
If you have any ancillary services you want to market it might be easy to do so. Identify patients who are interested in your services so your upsell rates are much better.
Automate the process of collecting self assessment data for outcome measurement so you capture the baseline and improvements over time, instead of relying on staff to remember these kinds of things, you just automate it.
High Participation rates of Patients
CHANDRESH: And that’s very important. You said the success rate of patients filling out forms ahead of time was high, what do you attribute that success to? Why are patients filling out those forms when the practices were initially skeptical? Why do you think that is happening?
RAVI: It’s a combination of a few things, one is user experience. One of our user experience person has a PhD in Experimental Psychology. So we spend a lot of time designing a very usable, easy to understand interface. We tested it with patients, watch them go through the forms , where they stumble and where they get through fast and find ways to make that better.
These days you download an app, you don’t get training before you start using an app and if it doesn’t work, you don’t call support, you just delete the app. When you’re dealing with patients, you’re dealing with vast demographics, old, young, educated, uneducated. Everyone needs to find it easy to do, so that one piece of it.
Then second piece of it is low friction. Regarding Patient Portals, we need it for compliance reasons. However there is a business need also. If you want patients to go to portal, create username password, something I’m not using on a daily basis, it doesn’t pass the 2 press test.
If I’m not using something more than 2 times a day like Facebook, then I’m not gonna bother creating a username and password and another thing, I’m gonna most likely forget my username password, that is the one reason why patient portals are not successful and you don’t get high participation rates.
So what do you do as an alternative? When we send reminders asking patients to fill forms, we give them the specific links to the forms they’re suppose to fill, and we ask them information they already know like the first and last name, date of birth.
If it happens to require additional security for follow up, then we have second authorization step where it sends and asks for temporary pin, so those are the kinds of things you have to do to make it more usable and reduce friction to make things work.
To lower friction, we take staff out of the picture because staff has a 101 things to do. Putting staff in the mix is a stumbling block, it slows things down, makes it unsuccessful.
CHANDRESH: For a practice to take such a step, how do you help them measure ROI on your service?
RAVI: When the potential client contacts us, for each service, we provide ROI numbers because we have a lot of data from all existing clients. We show they what the cost is , versus Return on Investment. As an example, lets say for our patient feedback on online review solution, we are able to show that once you improve your online reputation, you will attract 40- 45 or even 50% of your new patient business solely by improving your online reputation.
Let’s say you calculate the lifetime value per patient ( eg. ENT patient) to $1200 a month so 40% of new patient business multiplied by $1200 is a significant amount of money which we help secure and that’s permanent. Even if you stop the service you don’t loose your reviews.
CHANDRESH: You’ve established some kind of base line metric or base on your experience working with other practices?
RAVI: We have quarterly reports so we’re able to show with any practice, what is a snapshot of their online reputation before we start, same thing with reminders, what is the no-show rate before we start and over time we are able to show how those numbers are improving. The participation rates are improving. If there is a difference in anything, we provide recommendations and interpretations on how they can improve.
CHANDRESH: You mentioned patient marketing, how does that work?
RAVI: Typically, a lot of these practices have other services. Let’s say an ENT practice offers cosmetic procedures, hearing aides etc. Typically they may run TV ad or have big posters on the board but its hard to know who is interested in what, being able to close that loop.
Whereas when patients are filling firms, they’re a captive audience and its an ideal time to make them aware of various services, just asked them qualifying questions and ask them if they are interested in learning more.
In general, doctors and staff members are not sales people, they are uncomfortable trying to sell something. Here the conversation is switched because here the patient is saying we want to know more about XYZ and now the staff or the doctor is helping the patient in terms of the upsell. 40-70% patients self-identify themselves saying they want to know more about the service an even if you categorize 5-10% of that, that’s a huge revenue.