When Jeff Johnson, VP of Innovation & Digital Business at Banner Health, says 2022 is going to be “a busy year,” he’s not kidding. Although driving digital transformation has already been a key area of focus for the 30-hospital system, it’s been elevated even higher to help meet the evolving needs of both patients and providers.
It’s such a big priority, in fact, that it’s being tackled on three fronts: care access, digital therapeutics, and the digital workforce. It’s an enormous lift, and one that will require support from executive leadership, buy-in from users, and partnerships in which both parties are “philosophically aligned upfront.”
Recently, Johnson spoke with Kate Gamble, Managing Editor at healthsystemCIO, about the approach his team is taking to leverage “the real power of digital,” which he believes is “to make it easier for the consumer to engage with our services.” He also discussed the importance of ensuring innovations born out of Covid aren’t “wasted”; the challenges in executing a singular strategy across a large organization; and what healthcare can learn from other industries about creating a “great digital customer experience.”
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- There’s a lot of interest among players in other industries to solve healthcare’s challenges; what many don’t realize is just how challenging the not-for-profit world can be.
- Johnson’s strategy is focused on three key areas: the consumer transactional experience, the digital health experience, and the clinical experience. “It’s going to be busy.”
- For Banner, taking a service-line by service-line approach to creating a collaborative model helped build buy-in by showing physicians what the experience would look like.
- Having a governance council enables clinicians to funnel all of the digital apps and “make rational decisions about what has the highest value to the organization and meets all of our clinical care guidelines.”
- Part of Banner’s strategy is to do “front-end research with customers” and treat them as “partners in our design.”
Q&A with Jeff Johnson, Part 2 [Click here to view Part 1]
Johnson: We are always looking outside of our industry to see how others who are further along have created great digital customer experiences, and how we can apply that in healthcare.
I think there’s a lot to learn from the way data is used to drive very personalized experiences; it’s something we’re continually getting better at. We also look outside the industry for partnerships. Part of our strategy is that we can’t do this alone — there will be some real key partnerships with partners in other industries to help us change healthcare.
“Alignment around the best interest of the patient”
Gamble: Can it be challenging to find the right people or partners to work with?
Johnson: It can be. That is a challenge; it’s also what makes it interesting. There’s a lot of interest among other industries to solve the challenges of healthcare. Sometimes I think when they get into not-for-profit healthcare and they realize that some of the incentives are different than what they’re used to, that can be a challenge.
Choosing partners is something we do with great care. We need to make sure we have alignment around the best interest of the patient and their care. It’s key to have that philosophical alignment upfront as to what you’re trying to do, before applying a technology solution.
Three key areas of focus
Gamble: What are some of the key initiatives your team is looking at in the next year?
Johnson: There are three big areas of focus for 2022. One is digital access, which is completely integrating the digital journey for our customers to access care. It’s everything from using smart digital triage to help our patients to understand the appropriate place to access care — which is something we have in place today — to driving them right into scheduling, to the pre-visit prep, to a touch-less check-in in a waiting room less experience, to the post-visit follow up. It’s doing that all seamlessly on their phone, through text and other messaging, for the most part.
The second area of focus is around our digital health strategy. We have deployed or put in place a digital therapeutics operation, including a governance model, and we’re continuing to promote digital therapies to help our patients stay healthy at home and manage conditions through a variety of different digital tools.
Rethinking the workforce
The third area of focus is around our digital workforce. That includes everything from rethinking a modern intranet — which we’ve just introduced to replace a decades-old intranet — and thinking about what the virtual experience looks like for a workforce of 55,000 employees across 6 states and a lot of home workers as well.
One of the exciting things we’re doing in 2022 is a physician mobile app. It’s designed around giving physicians in our employed groups, as well as our affiliates and community physicians, one application where they can communicate with each other and find each other in a secure way, as well as a variety of other services. We’re hitting on all three fronts: the consumer transactional experience, the digital health experience, and the clinical experience. 2022 is going to be busy. It’s already busy.
Service-line by service-line approach
Gamble: Right. You talked about with digital access and creating a seamless experience across the continuum. I imagine it requires a lot of collaboration across different parts of the organization.
Johnson: It does. We’ve taken a service-line by service-line approach. We started with standalone imaging centers; that helped prove the experience. Now we’re working with our primary care physicians and specialists to say, ‘here’s what’s coming. Here’s what we’ve done to the imaging experience, now we’re bringing that to you.’ They’re really excited about that.
We’ll partner with Luma to go through each one of those service lines and say, ‘we’ve done it here and now we’re scaling.’ That’s part of the value of our platform; Luma views it the same way we do—not as a bunch of point solutions that need to be stitched together, but that exist natively in one seamless experience. Luma is the engine we’re using to bring these components together.
Digital therapeutics governance council
Gamble: In terms of digital therapeutics, can you talk a little more about what you’re doing there?
Johnson: We’ve made some really great progress, from an operational standpoint and a technology standpoint. From a technology standpoint, we have implemented the Xealth product that’s integrated directly into our Cerner EMR. That allows us to manage a formulary of curated digital therapies.
Our physicians can now go into a patient’s chart, and, with a click of one button, essentially prescribe a digital tool to that patient. Then, the Xealth platform coordinates with the digital therapeutic vendor to make that connection with the patient and get them on the app or the digital product, and bring that data back into the Xealth platform, back into the EMR.
“They know it’s been vetted”
On the operational side, we have formed a digital therapeutics governance council to do that curation; to really bring forth the right digital therapies and put them in the formulary so that when clinicians see a digital tool inside that formulary, they know it’s been vetted by a clinical oversight group to make sure it’s worth their while to get educated on and to use.
Now we’re in the position of continuing to add to that formulary and bring these new digital products through that governance body and build and scale that formulary of digital tools.
Gamble: It seems like it’s key to have that governance council in place, especially since there’s been so much growth in terms of therapeutic apps.
Johnson: Yes. They pop up all over the organization. Sometimes we find that there are three redundant ones that are being piloted somewhere in the organization. That’s the intent of the governance council; to funnel all these and say, let’s make rational decisions about what has the highest value to the organization and meets all of our clinical care guidelines.
Gamble: That’s a great philosophy to have in general, especially in this area.
Johnson: It is. There’s so much going on, as you said, and technology is only half of it — if that. We’re trying to get to new operating models that are very digital-centric, very customer-centric.
Gamble: In terms of what consumers are ready for and what will help improve satisfaction, how do you approach that at Banner? How do you get the pulse of what users want?
Johnson: We do a lot of customer research. We have a lot of customer insights based on what our marketing and patient satisfaction teams do. We also do a lot of research with customers directly about digital experiences and digital expectations. We’ve done some really interesting studies.
For example, we did a big proxy study with our patients where we brought them in and spoke to them about how they’re using digital in other parts of their lives. We would sit down with customers and go through different services like buying a refrigerator on the LG appliance site. We’d watch them buy a fridge and then say, ‘imagine if that was a healthcare company — what would it be like?’ They said it would be really cool if I could put three doctors side by side and I could see in one glance what the differences are, what coverage they have, and when they’re available. We do a lot of front-end research with our customers; we like to think of them as partners in our design. Rather than designing for them, we’re designing with them.
Being in sync with customer needs & wants
Then, as we go through the product development cycle, we’re always doing iterative testing with an open crowdsourced platform where we can push out these products to a group of folks and get feedback on it. We trust that it’s really in sync with what our customers want.
To give you an example, we hear from a lot of companies that want to sell wayfinding tools for hospitals. But in talking with our customers, we learned that it’s not even that high on the list of things they want us to solve. We always make sure that we’re going after the things that are high on the list. Our customers care much more about getting rid of paper forms and clip boards in waiting rooms than they do about getting wayfinding in a large hospital. We’re constantly tapped into what our customers value. That’s where the whole product development lifecycle starts — with that research and insight.
Gamble: Very interesting.
Johnson: Those are new competencies for healthcare to develop. Healthcare, a lot of times, has been pretty good with enterprise technology systems, but designing for the customer versus designing for the workforce is really, really different. We’re making a big investment in creating research and digital product teams and developing these skills, because it’s not something healthcare has traditionally had.
Gamble: Right. It goes back to what you said about trying to find partners or even learn from what other verticals are doing in these areas.