Got digital savvy? Many hospitals don’t. A new company will pull them into the modern era
As published in The Tennessean, June 6, 2017
Health systems need a steady stream of commercially insured, and paying, patients, to keep the doors open, but often leaders are befuddled about how to turn people into new patients.
Health care executives once thought people would interact with hospitals and doctors through web portals that primarily featured some medical records, and perhaps a scheduling feature.
But people quickly adapted to finding almost anything they want when they want it — and in their price range.
Health care is among the last industries in the U.S. to embrace mobile, shopper-friendly services and platforms.
The hunt for people with employer-sponsored insurance — the holy grail of patients — doesn't have to be a paradox, given that nearly every other industry in the U.S. has figured out how to weave into people's lives via technology, said Hal Andrews, a long-time fixture in the city's health care scene.
"The way they thought (people) would become consumers is not how they are becoming consumers," said Hal Andrews.
Getting in front of people who can afford to pay for care is a top priority.
With capital from Charlie Martin and his venture capital fund Martin Ventures, Andrews is combining Aegis Health Group and Clariture — a seasoned company and a startup, respectively — into one platform called Trilliant Health, which will be a one-stop shop for hospital executives vying for that digital handshake with patients.
The merger will try to solve a variety of hospital executives' problems.
Trilliant through its initial subsidiaries will help hospitals implement strategies to help raise awareness about where and when to get care. Aegis' wheelhouse helps hospitals get in front of people who need care but don't know it.
Meanwhile, Clariture helps hospitals tap into the pool of people who want, or need, care but are unknown to the health system. TriStar Health, for instance, is using online marketing a la retailers to find people who want care.
Down the road, Trilliant will be looking for other companies that are essentially modernizing health system functions such as marketing, scheduling, registration and billing, said Andrews, is CEO of both Trilliant and Aegis. Devin Carty, who has been Clariture's chief, will be chair of the board of Trilliant.
The mad dash for paying patients
Around Nashville, the hospitals and health systems are trying to get patients in a variety of ways ranging from 24-hour telehealth platforms to building more types doctor or urgent care facilities to launching on-demand urgent care programs.
And, the battle for people in employer-sponsored plans is taking place in every corner of the U.S.
One executive in the Southeast told Andrews in a recent conversation that his system had 90 percent of the local market share — essentially that competition wasn't an issue.
But research indicated that the system actually had about 60 percent and that a neighboring health system had opened up two doctors' offices — historically ways to funnel patients back to a hospital — in the town.
Andrews said even hospital executives who think about attracting people are "optimistic when compared with data."
The plan, Andrews said, is to find, and buy, more companies that complement Aegis and Clariture to help health systems navigate what consumerism has turned out to be — instead of furthering what hospitals forecast would be patient consumerism.
Hospital executives came of professional age before the digital revolution
Health systems are mired in an old, outdated model in which patients came to them — whether it was due to proximity or a physician's referral.
They are, for the most part, not equipped to compete in a retail environment, effectively bill patients, or even get in front of people who are thinking about getting some type of care.
Retailers know how to go after people who have shown interest — think of all the times a product you researched later appeared in a Facebook or other website ad.
Health:Further and Sharecare are planning to bring behemoths of retail and consumerism to Nashville in August to give health care executive a glimpse into the minds and strategies of people who have figured out how to ingratiate into people's live via technology.
It's a lesson that has taken health care executives some time to come around to, said Andrews, pointing out that nearly all of today's biggest health care executives were decades into their career before the internet and smartphone age.
Today, though, is an era when a map is in almost everyone's pocket and finding something local and fast or preferred is a cinch.
People have choices (many opt to drive to a facility of their choice) or are seeing providers in new settings, such as urgent or retail care, that may not refer into a larger system.
Trilliant will help executives reach commercially insured people who are of increasing importance to health systems as more, and more, people age into Medicare.
Hospitals, at least in Tennessee, don't stay in the black from patient care alone, in part because of low government reimbursement rates of Medicare and Medicaid so employer-sponsored plans help make up some of the short falls.
"Commercially insured patients have been the lifeblood of hospitals, forever and ever, and that is increasingly true," said Andrews.