In the Know

How Digital Health Technology Benefits Your Employees

03.26.2018 Jim Boyle, Vice President of Information Services, Analytics and Data Intelligence

Health care organizations nationwide are focused on ways to enhance digital health technology to allow consumers to take more effective control of their care and to allow caregivers to deliver even better care. At St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare, I lead an IT team that is passionate about embracing innovative health care technologies that give our caregivers better tools and better ways to live out the promise of continuing to serve our communities and reach more people at their time of need.


Our Piloted Approach to New Technology

We take pride in ensuring we provide a useful, valuable health care experience to people who have varying comfort levels with technology. We know that some things work for some people, and don’t for others. For this reason, we do a lot of smaller trials and experiments, and then readjust before rolling out a new technology to larger groups. In technology, failing is part of learning and our objective is to fail forward and then quickly readjust something to make it work better. It’s important to do this because new technology allows us to better serve our community, which is part of our overall mission at St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare and our family of allied organizations that together form St. Joseph Hoag Health.

The advantages of our piloted, iterative approach to new technology were made clear in the recent rollout of our telehealth solution, called eVisit, which provides convenient access to on-demand primary care providers in the comfort of your home via your mobile device or computer. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through this new technology, we learned very quickly that while we wanted to allow the patient to have immediate, round-the-clock electronic telehealth access to a physician, we also wanted to ensure the patient’s primary care physician was engaged in this experience. While it was being piloted, we were able to adjust the technology so that if a patient used eVisit, their primary care physician would be able to see a summary of the visit and follow up after to continue with care. This ensures a seamless experience for the patient and an ongoing relationship with their primary care physician.

Now, we’re looking into a technology solution that will offer our patients an opportunity to schedule same-day-visits online with a list of physicians, and we’ll use the same experimental process to refine and improve the technology before offering it to everyone else.

Employees Aren’t the Only Ones who will Benefit

Various studies show how electronic health care access can benefit employers. A virtual care delivery model could potentially save American companies $6 billion a year in health care costs, according to a recent study by Towers Watson. Another study conducted by Red Quill Consulting found that telehealth visits have the potential to save $126 per visit when compared to traditional office visits. The same survey found that telemedicine helps reduce reliance on urgent care or emergency rooms. Of patients who used the virtual health care visits, 5.6 percent would otherwise have gone to the ER and 45.8 percent would have used urgent care. This study also found 83 percent of conditions were resolved by the virtual doctors.

Aside from digital health offerings being what many of today’s employees want, data gathered and analyzed through digital health offerings allows everyone to keep costs down by providing the right treatment to the right person. It enables us to look at data and make sure we’re addressing those populations who need intervention the most.

For example, if we know there are certain patients who are diagnosed with or have a higher risk of getting diabetes, there are a lot of different ways we can provide outreach to those patients through digital health technology. We’ve provided remote monitoring to track glucose levels, weight and blood pressure, and then the data is collected and integrated with our systems and monitored by an RN. We also have patients who might be due for a colonoscopy or annual wellness exam. In the past, we would mail out a letter to homes. Now we’re seeing that if we instead send a text message to those who opt in for that communication, they’re more likely to respond at their convenience to set those appointments up. We’re seeing that if we adapt to the newer technological ways people prefer to communicate, that leads to better outcomes and better health and wellness for our patients.

Meeting Your Employees’ Health Technology Expectations

Digital health offerings are expanding at an accelerated pace, and businesses need to understand their employees’ needs and expectations around this. We know consumers are doing more and more things online and there’s an expectation that they should be able to schedule a physician appointment, pay bills and request prescription refills online—and those are all things they can do now within our patient portal.

We are finding more ways to outreach to our patients using text messages. For example, if a patient has an appointment scheduled in the next few days, and that physician has a cancellation that day, our system can send a text message to 10 patients and say, “There’s been a cancellation with your physician. If anyone would like this opening, be the first to text back.” If they do text back, it automates the flow and that patient gets bumped up in the scheduling system to that earlier date and time, and then it will automatically set off a flow where it texts 10 additional patients about that new opening, and so on and so on. It’s a benefit for patients because they can be seen earlier, and it’s a benefit to our organization because it allows our caregivers to see as many patients as possible on a given day.

Overall, we’re seeing that our patients prefer a lot more automation and self-service technology offerings, chat features and online interaction – many patients don’t necessarily want to pick up the phone, call and sit and wait on hold to talk to someone anymore. With our patient portal, we have about 24,000 new activations a month, and both our physicians and patients are appreciating the instantaneous two-way communication through the portal that is integrated with the patient’s electronic medical record and email.

It’s not one thing, but it’s a lot of little things where we as a society are moving more online. Health care has often lagged behind other industries, but we’ve definitely seen a huge uptake in this area in the past five years, a trend which we fully expect to continue and which we as a health system are optimizing for the benefit of the business communities and workforces we serve.


To learn more: Contact us at foremployers@stjoe.org to learn more about our digital health technology offerings.