Patient Engagement - Best Practices - Interview

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 Information Technology. I worked with several fortune 500 companies especially in custom software. I saw that there was always an element of every software that has to do with customer engagement. I decided to build a reusable Cloud Based customer engagement platform. Once I got started, I realized, a) It is better to start with SMB clients since enterprise clients take a longer time to make a decision and b) It is better to start with a specific industry rather than trying to build a single solution for all industries.

I quickly realized that healthcare is one area that is behind the times in technology adoption. And since healthcare staff doesn’t have the time or inclination to learn technology, an ideal solution needs to be a simple turnkey solution. What attracted me to this industry was:

1.      Lot of activity and energy for change in healthcare

2.     There was room for innovation.

3.     There was an actual need for a 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 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 must do and its easy for them to forget stuff. There’s no need to waste valuable staff time on repetitive tasks. It makes a lot of sense 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 see 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.

Many practices expect from experience that patients don’t want to use technology, and we always prove them wrong. One example is that despite lot of cajoling from staff, very few patients use their patient portal, so there is an expectation that a new solution will also not be very effective. We have proved that we can get over 80% of patients to fill online forms ahead of time. In other words, adoption rates are very high when you build software in a thoughtful manner.

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 perform complicated steps, if you just use those 3 tools, you can get very high participation rates. In addition, making things simple, and 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.

On the first part you want more patients through the door via local search results. Most patients happen to be local, so they need to find you in a basic local search. When they do find you on local search results, they need to see 4+ star ratings on agnostic sites such as Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, etc not on vendor sites like demandforce.com which don’t carry the same weight with patients.

Once the patients come in, we want to make sure they’ll be able to quickly book an appointment; make sure that most of them show up instead of not showing up, that most of them confirm ahead of time instead of staff having to manually call, that most of them fill forms ahead of time, and 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 a practice has any ancillary services they want to market, we make it easy to identify patients who are interested in those services so the upsell rates are much better.

We automate the process of collecting self assessment data for outcome measurement so you capture the baseline score 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 team members has a PhD in Experimental Psychology. We spend a lot of time designing a very usable, easy to understand interface. We tested it with patients, watched them go through the forms , identify 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. In short, you just expect things to work and be easy to use right away. When you’re dealing with vast demographics of patients, old, young, educated, uneducated, etc. you have to make sure everyone finds the solution easy to use. So that one aspect of it.

Then second aspect of it is low friction. Take Patient Portals for example, practices need it for compliance reasons. You are expecting patients to go to a portal, create a username password for something they are not going to use on a daily basis, so it doesn’t pass the ‘toothbrush test’.

If I’m not using something more than 2 times a day like Facebook, then I’m not going to bother creating a username and password. And another thing, I’m going to most likely forget that 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 asks for a temporary pin that is sent to them via email or text. So those are the kinds of things you must 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 101 things to do. Putting staff in the mix is a stumbling block, it slows things down, makes it unsuccessful.

 

Measuring ROI

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 they can expect because we have a lot of data from our existing client base. We show them what the cost is versus the Return on Investment. As an example, lets take our patient feedback and online reviews service, we can show that once you improve your online reputation, you could 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 new patient ( ex. ENT patient) as $1200, so 40% of new patient business each month multiplied by $1200 is a significant amount of money which we help secure. And those online reviews are 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 can show how those numbers are improving. If there is a dip in anything, we provide recommendations and interpretations on how they can improve.

 

Patient Marketing

CHANDRESH: You mentioned patient marketing, how does that work?

RAVI: Typically, a lot of these practices have other services they would like to market. Let’s say an ENT practice offers cosmetic procedures, hearing aides etc. Typically, they may run TV ads in the waiting room, or have big posters on the wall, but its hard to know who is interested in what and being able to close that loop.

Whereas when patients are filling forms, they are a captive audience and its an ideal time to make them aware of various services, ask 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 a specific service, 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 and even if you convert 5-10% of that, that’s a huge revenue add.