Columbus, OH,
17:21 PM

The future of healthcare

Digital innovations and new online experiences coming in 2016

Close your eyes and let’s start imagining.

It’s time for your annual check-up with your primary care physician, so you schedule an appointment via your smart phone.

Your son comes down with a fever and cough, so you drive to the nearest urgent care facility, check in on your phone and immediately know your place in line.

Or, maybe you have a question for your physician about basic symptoms,

so you exchange a few emails or have a conversation over a live video visit — all while having electronic access to your entire medical record.

Sounds like the healthcare of the future, right?

These and other practical applications are part of a technology transformation that’s already underway at OhioHealth and helping the system embrace all things digital — in the not-so-distant future.

“Consumer expectations have changed,” says Staci Lucius, chief operating officer for OhioHealth Physician Group. “For OhioHealth to continue providing a great experience, we also have to change.”

To meet the new expectations of today’s digitally connected consumer, who is accustomed to having information at his or her fingertips, Staci says that OhioHealth needs to view the patient experience from a customer perspective.

“We’re addressing the need to provide different experiences and access to information and services without sacrificing any of the expectations patients have of us,” she says.

Salil Verma, senior director of information services, says his customer has always been the internal associate who is supporting the patient. Now his team is also thinking of the patient and ways to better serve them through technology.

“We’re beginning to unlock our technological potential and focus on the customer in new ways,” says Salil. “We get to create a ‘digital front door’ for OhioHealth that digitally demonstrates value across our three major pillars — customer experience, access and cost.”

Tools to fuel digital success

Staci cites the Find-a-Doc feature on the OhioHealth website as a basic yet intuitive tool that begins to address the needs of today’s consumer.

“It’s a search engine that allows patients to find any physician in our system by specialty or location,” says Staci. “It empowers them to learn more about a physician’s background and credentials to make an informed choice.”

For patients, it also will offer another window to access OhioHealth MyChart and the opportunity to schedule appointments online when that is functionally phased into Find-a-Doc over time.

“A MyChart account, which is fully accessible on a smartphone, gives patients with certain OhioHealth providers the ability to schedule and manage appointments online, request prescription refills, access lab results, send messages and ask questions of their physician’s office, and have full access to their electronic medical record,” says Staci.

Just as Find-a-Doc naturally points to engaging with MyChart, the informational depth of MyChart is opening up new opportunities for patient-physician engagement, including E-Visits and Video Visits.

“An E-Visit is more like an email experience,” says Sanford Melmed, MD, of OhioHealth Primary Care Physicians. “I give patients a series of questions to answer, review their answers and feedback, and then decide what action steps to take next.”

As part of an initial pilot project that launched in November 2015, E-Visits currently are available for 10 different patient symptoms, but the opportunity to add other diagnoses is limitless. The only qualifier is that patients must have had an office visit with their physician in the previous 12 months.

Dr. Melmed also is among the first physicians to administer a Video Visit and says it’s really no different than a standard office visit.

“I tell our staff not to assume anything at this point as we can do more in a Video Visit than you might think,” suggests Dr. Melmed. “For example, I can see a laceration on an arm in a Video Visit and determine if it’s gaping and needs stitches or if it just needs some wound sealing glue and a bandage.”

The latter presents a significant time and cost savings over a patient going to the Emergency Department.

Dr. Melmed believes that E-Visits and Video Visits are a win for both physicians and patients because they do more than provide an innovative experience. They also address the important issue of access.

“Getting to the doctor can be challenging given work schedules, access to transportation and for patients who have mobility issues,” says Staci. “E-Visits and Video Visits can help remove those barriers to care.”


A digital perspective rooted in people

OhioHealth’s digital transformation began a few years ago when CareConnect was selected as the single technology platform for all of OhioHealth, ensuring a single electronic medical record for each patient.

“None of this would be possible or even matter without CareConnect,” says Salil. “With CareConnect as the foundation, we can supplement the overall customer experience with these digital tools to make it really cool and applicable.”

Determining those tools will take team insights and careful listening to the problems long before they become cool.

“It’s important that we work directly with customers to understand their needs so that our digital solutions are impactful for them,” says Nate Rogers, vice president of marketing communications at OhioHealth. “Their challenges present opportunities for us to be creative. We get to test and validate if our solution meets their needs.”

As Nate tells it, digital engagement alone is not the answer. It is part of a more complete solution.

“What’s really important is that these digital solutions connect customers to our care providers — meaning it all comes back to our people,” says Nate.

Salil references the history lessons of pioneering companies such as Borders and Kodak that were slow to engage customers digitally as motivation for why OhioHealth must change.

“Technology is so pervasive. It’s not about whether we need to change, but rather what will happen if we don’t change,” he says.

From a digital experience standpoint, Staci says we’re ready to turn the keys over to patients. And if Dr. Melmed’s virtual patient experiences are any indication of how going digital will enhance the patient experience, then expect more digital innovation on OhioHealth’s horizon.