How the best companies build delightful experiences

They may not always show up—or pay their bills— but our customers really want to talk to us.

Great customer experiences have become a major contributor to business success, impacting industries from retail to healthcare. But what makes a delightful experience? That’s changing too. Customers still expect their needs to be met…but they want the process to be easier and more human.

That’s why conversations have increasingly become the key to great customer experiences. Just ask Darcy Peters, a customer advocacy lead at Buffer, which helps individuals and companies connect with their followers over social media. “You build this rapport,” she said. “It increases that fondness on both sides.” And Buffer practices what it preaches, maintaining an active social media presence, a Buffer community Slack account, and regular Q&As with the company’s CEO. “We try to have as many genuine, authentic, and valuable conversations as possible,” Peters said.

Many of the most successful companies have invested in building genuine relationships with their customers, and we’ve been lucky enough to experience a few of them here at WELL. We recently started using TripActions, which differentiates itself by providing round-the-clock access to support staff through its app. TripActions employees will let you know if your flight is canceled or delayed, and they’ll sort out the details for you. Investing in communication is clearly paying off: the company just successfully raised $154 million in Series C funding. And I recently traveled to a Kimpton hotel, where they messaged me to let me know my room was ready, then graciously agreed to give the key to a friend waiting in the lounge. All via text. No wonder IHG, which owns the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, has snapped up 16% of global market share.

And these conversations have to take place where your customers are most comfortable. Much has been made of Gallop’s finding that texting is the most common form of communication for people under the age of 50. But customers want to reach out in many ways. A 2016 Radicati report tells us that email is still alive and kicking: by 2020, it will be used by 3 billion people worldwide. Zendesk found that customers were more likely to be satisfied by live-chat support than any other medium.

At WELL, we know how important it is to have great conversations with patients. That’s why we’ve just added two-way email functionality. From the beginning, we’ve had a simple mission: to connect patients directly to medical staff, revolutionizing the way people communicate with their doctors’ offices. WELL’s platform already allows patients and staff members to text back and forth, and that’s a great first step. But until now, email communications have only been one-way. Now, patients and staff can switch back and forth seamlessly between email and text, all in the same secure channel. In other words, even though it’s happening over multiple mediums, our system will treat it as one long conversation.

This is just the beginning. We’re working on support for many other communication mediums.

Now, let’s get those conversations started.

WELL is now HITRUST CSF Certified

 

We’ve got big news! After a rigorous, multi-step process, WELL officially received HITRUST CSF Certification for our patient communication platform.

Just in case you’re not up on the latest in healthcare security, trust us, this is exciting. It means that the security and privacy of our platform meet comprehensive, meticulous standards.

Most of the information about HITRUST CSF Certification is a little confusing and technical, to say the least. So we’ve put together some material on why it’s important and what it means for the health systems that use WELL.

What is HITRUST?

HITRUST is a standards organization whose programs and services help safeguard sensitive information and manage information risk for global organizations across all industries. The organization’s evaluation criteria draw from prominent safety standards, frameworks, and guidelines, including HIPAA, PCI, and ISO.

How does HITRUST evaluate companies?

HITRUST evaluates companies using 19 domains, which are designed to address every facet of a business’s security operations. Those domains are:

  • Information protection program
  • Endpoint protection
  • Portable media security
  • Mobile device security
  • Wireless security
  • Configuration management
  • Vulnerability management
  • Transmission protection
  • Network protection
  • Password management
  • Access control
  • Audit logging and monitoring
  • Education, training, and awareness
  • Third-party assurance
  • Incident management
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Risk management
  • Physical and environmental security
  • Data privacy and protection

Vendors who meet HITRUST standards — usually after multiple rounds of evaluation and correction —are issued CSF certification.

HITRUST vs HIPAA

The HITRUST CSF is a rigorous set of controls that covers, among other sources, all the requirements of HIPAA. At WELL, we’ve mapped our security controls to ensure we’re compliant with both HITRUST and HIPAA.

But it’s important to note that while many healthcare vendors claim HIPAA compliance, there’s no definitive third-party that verifies HIPAA compliance. Basically, you have to take a company’s word for it. In contrast, HITRUST CSF Certification standards are set by a governing alliance, and an unbiased expert conducts the audit of each company.

Why does it matter?

Health systems are vulnerable to two basic kinds of breach: external attacks and internal errors.

Ransomware attacks more frequently target healthcare than any other industry. Patient health information is considerably more valuable than a social security or credit card number on the black market.

But while hacking and malware are the most high-profile threats to health systems, accidental disclosures are a major problem as well. (The most frequent culprit varies from quarter to quarter, and year to year.)

An effective security system protects against both.

And while the number of breaches has actually declined in recent years, individual incidents are becoming more severe. The average number of people affected per breach more than doubled between 2017 and 2018, a Bitglass report found.

In short, there’s a lot at stake for health systems, who bear an enormous responsibility toward their patents. Our HITRUST CSF Certification helps us ensure that patient health information is kept safe from both external threats and internal errors.

How did WELL get HITRUST CSF Certified?

An authorized third-party, external assessor — in this case, the widely respected firm BDO — conducted a wide-ranging audit of WELL’s security operations and architecture. We then submitted the BDO report to HITRUST’s governing body so they could perform their own assessment.

Using two different layers of review by two different assessors is deliberate. It’s designed to ensure that no corner of a company’s security protection goes untested.

How long does HITRUST certification last?

HITRUST certification is valid for two years. About one year in, HITRUST will conduct an interim review, just to make sure we haven’t made any significant changes or experienced any breaches.

How does HITRUST help WELL clients?

Essentially, it means that clients can be completely confident in WELL’s handling of sensitive information, whether it’s being transferred or stored. As BDO’s National Health IT Leader, Deepak Chaudhry, put it: “WELL has made sure to consider the end-to-end data flow process, and they’ve conscientiously deployed all the necessary controls to best address safety, privacy, and potential risk.”

And in turn, WELL’s HITRUST CSF Certification means it’s easier for our clients to prove the safety of their own patient data during assessments or audits. This is precisely why vendor assessment programs are placing a higher emphasis on security requirements: It not only means greater assurance, but also cost and time savings for health systems during third-party reviews.

This was a comprehensive undertaking — exactly as it should have been — but we’re so glad we went through the process. We know what an extraordinary responsibility it is to be entrusted with sensitive data, and we want our customers to know we’re worthy of their faith in us. ♥

Meet the Team: Tom Sims, Inside Sales Manager

 

It’s Monday morning and Tom Sims, our inside sales manager, is sidling up to you.

The first words out of his mouth—we can almost guarantee this—are going to be “How was your weekend?”

He expects a detailed answer. Then, and only then, will he tell you what he really wants.

We caught up with Tom shortly after his one-year anniversary at WELL—where he’s built an unstoppable enterprise team—to ask him the secrets of his success, his proudest achievement, and his advice for newcomers to the business world.

We forgot to ask about his weekend.

What’s your role on the WELL team?

I oversee the team responsible for creating pipeline—the top of our sales funnel—which feeds account executives high-quality opportunities to close business.

The business development team is our organization’s boots on the ground. It’s almost like a sourcing and filtering mechanism for the marketplace, so we’re able to communicate with anyone who could potentially benefit from WELL.

How did you get there?

I actually started at WELL as a business development representative. I came into the position with some solid experience in sales, so it was at best a lateral move from my previous role. But I was so passionate about WELL, and there was so much opportunity to contribute and add value, that it was a really easy decision.

I was able to be successful in the job and set up some really good opportunities, so I was promoted to head of the business development team. At the time, I only had one representative to manage, and we scaled up from there. It’s been a wild ride.

What’s new in your life?

I’m getting married in May! However it won’t be much of a traditional wedding—we’re having a small ceremony at a nature preserve and then a little shindig at our house after. And I’m a recent homeowner, that’s a big one.

What’s a typical day in the life?

Step one when I come in in the morning: I’ve got to get my hands on some caffeine. (The coffee doesn’t stop until about 3pm; that’s when I transition to kombucha.) Then I can make my rotations around the office, say hello, ask about people’s weekends—I know I’m famous for asking this, but I’m genuinely curious.

From that point, each day is a little different. I tend to be hyper-productive in sprints during the day, so when it’s time to grind it out and get a lot of work done, I have to really optimize it. Then there’s typically a combination of one-on-ones with my team, sitting in on demos, call coaching, that kind of thing.

If the energy’s getting low or someone books a demo, I’ll get down on the ground and do a few push-ups to keep the blood flowing. Ultimately, I spend my day making sure that my team is happy and they’re able to be successful.

Where can we find you when you’re not at WELL?

Santa Barbara is a pretty awesome place with no shortage of fun to be had. Maybe the beach on Saturday and the links on Sunday. Or maybe vegetable gardening while listening to my favorite podcast (right now it’s Stuff You Should Know). I’m convinced I have a natural green thumb, but I’ll have to grow more than a few succulents before I’ve earned my stripes.

Or I’ll play some billiards at the local watering hole, Elsie’s. Scoundrels only.

Your top pet peeve (or three):

Verbosity. People like the sound of their own voice, and there’s an epidemic of people saying things in ten words that could be said in three. People waiting to talk as opposed to listening. Having conviction without having gone through the mental exercise of validating your belief. Mind you, I’m guilty of all of these.

Proudest achievement, personal or professional?

For me, college was a really big one. I was never really a great student: I got through high school with straight Cs, went to a community college, ended up leaving the country, traveling and working abroad with minimal hope of going back to school. It was one of those things my peers had done that I never had, even though I knew it had a lot of value.

Long story short, I ended up graduating from UCSB. I had something of an academic awakening: I discovered that I had a real affinity for academia and for learning.

The people you admire most are:

There are so many badass people in the world, there’s no shortage to admire. Without naming anyone specifically, I really admire “doers.” It’s one thing to have the capacity or the potential to do something, and an entirely different thing to actually do it.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?

Don’t be discouraged by rejection. It’s part of any job, especially sales. If you didn’t get your dream job or you never got an email back, that’s the best time to get scrappy and be persistent. ♥

A Q&A with John Halamka, Executive Director of the Health Technology Exploration Center

 

John Halamka calls himself the Forrest Gump of healthcare IT.

“By utterly random chance, I’ve been at every major event that has shaped the industry since the 1960s,” he said.

It might be just a touch more deliberate than that. Halamka taught himself computer engineering as a kid, built an early version of a patient portal, and wrote the code for an EHR while a medical resident in the 1990s.

Whatever he’s working on, it’s all to further the same goal: “Since the ‘90s, my whole focus has been making organizations work better, whether that’s the hospital or the medical school or the young faculty that I supervise,” he said.

That’s meant occupying a series of innovation-related roles. Currently, as of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s brand-new merger with Lahey Health, Halamka is the executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center. Regardless of his job title, there’s no getting around it: he’s one of the most influential figures in healthcare IT today.

WELL sat down with Halamka to learn more about his problem-solving process, his advice for getting others on board with new ideas, and where that all-consuming interest in technology originated.

Your training and background are as a clinician. How did you fall in love with technology, and why did you decide to make it your life’s work?

I moved to Torrance in 1968. Torrance was a place where you combined industry, commercial establishments, and residential [neighborhoods] into a single community. So I, as a young kid, was able to go to businesses that offered technology and go through their dumpsters, and I picked throw-away electronics out of the dumpsters.

I was able to teach myself discrete circuitry, resistors, capacitors, inductors, and then integrated circuits, and then microprocessors. And I started designing systems and built a computer for a hospital, Harbor-UCLA, to acquire signals from the eyes and ears of the disabled and provide digital reports about their functioning.

Then, though I did major in political science, economics, and microbiology, I was running a software company from my dorm room while I was at Stanford. Back then, it was considered very weird. Now, of course, everybody does it.

I’ve always been on the parallel tracks of technology and biology. I’ve found that, when you work at the intersection of two fields, your promotion goes much faster than if you work in just the core of a single area.

There are so many issues in the industry right now—issues of inequity and lack of access, spending and transparency. Why is healthtech the right thing to focus on?

Technology is just an enabler. I was in India a few weeks ago, working with the Gates Foundation on a tracer exercise. (In this case, the word “tracer” means you go into the field and you ask yourself, “What are problems to be solved and how can we best solve them?”)

What I found in Northern India in Bihar State, which is the area in India with probably the most disease, pollution, and poverty, [was that] they didn’t necessarily have good access to medical care, but they had good access to 4G, and cell phones were $35.

And so coming out of my week in India was a plan for, potentially, how Gates could fund a cell phone-connected machine-learning approach to diagnosis and treatment that would extend the ability of doctors in India to reach the more rural areas.

If you give me a business problem, we’ll solve that however is best appropriate. And if there is a technological solution or an emerging idea that can really radically transform a social issue, then I’ll definitely choose the technology approach. But I’m more into solving a problem as opposed to implementing a technology per se.

You’ve argued that the future of healthcare involves focusing on wellness, not sickness. How can health systems help patients make that transition? What tools and approaches should they use?

In the past, clinicians were paid for the amount of healthcare they delivered as opposed to the wellness or quality of the healthcare they delivered. As we move to value-based purchasing, there’s already this risk contract approach: Clinicians are being paid for keeping you healthy in your house.

Therefore, what they’re recognizing is, “I can’t keep you healthy in your house unless I know how you’re doing. Are you walking? Eating? Taking your medications? Are you appropriately warm or cold?”

It’s pretty clear that the incentives are aligned appropriately, and that using these digital tools to assist a patient and family with wellness is going to be the next generation of healthcare delivery as opposed to more hospital beds.

Doctors frequently complain of feeling disconnected from patients—in no small part due to the EMR. Does technology have the potential to rehabilitate the relationship between doctor and patient or bring us closer together? How?

Do you remember Google Glass? Google Glass was an interesting idea but not so well-engineered. It had a short battery life, didn’t have security patches, so it didn’t ultimately catch on. (Although it’s being revised and potentially, we’ll see it rise again.) Beth Israel was the alpha test site for Google Glass and healthcare.

We used Google Glass as a heads-up display to show the patient’s history, medications, problem list, care plan, all the rest. What happened as a result of that study? The patient said, “Oh my God. That was wonderful. The doctor looked at me instead of a computer.”

From the doctor’s perspective, the doctor was using a computer. But from the patient’s perspective, the doctor was interacting with the patient. If technology is appropriately deployed, it can meet both needs.

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, you said that “third-party innovators have the most potential to dramatically improve both the user experience of clinicians and the health of patients.” But there are a wealth of options out there. How should health systems decide which to employ?

In the world of startups, there is often a lot of hype. There’s a lot of overpromise and under-delivery. And so what you have to be careful of is what I call present-future tense: “We have a product that will.”

Either you have a product that does or you will have a product that will. You can’t have a product now that will. So when I do partnerships with third parties, I really go deep with the companies there and figure out what works and what doesn’t work, what’s real and what’s not real. And when it’s real, we adopt it.

Don’t buy the PowerPoint of brochureware. Buy results based on personal experience of going deep with companies and maybe even do some co-development.

Hospital systems are famously slow to accept change. How do you convince your colleagues to go along with new ideas, accept new processes, and adopt new attitudes?

Do you remember Rahm Emanuel? He was Obama’s chief of staff. And his brother was Zeke, who wrote a fair amount of the Affordable Care Act. Anyway, these guys basically said, “Let no urgency go unused.” What do I mean by that? Imagine a hospital system has a privacy breach—and it happens. No matter what you do, people, unfortunately, are human. They’ll click on that link, and they’ll introduce ransomware. Or they’ll find a USB drive and put it in their computer. If you have a major malware or ransomware problem, what a great time to bring in enhanced security software or partner with a company working on new security innovation.

Or let’s imagine a patient has a bad outcome and it’s very public. What a wonderful opportunity to think about artificial intelligence or tools that can better watch what a patient’s progression might be through a hospital and raise a red flag if it’s going off-plan? Use every sentinel event as an opportunity for change.

Then a second bit of advice: In a healthcare system, you will find that there are a fair number of strongly opinionated people. If you tell the leaders of a healthcare system that, by implementing a technology, we will satisfy some of these more local people who might also be naysayers, they will say, “That sounds really great.”

It’s a lot about figuring out the alignment of incentives. Sometimes the incentives are monetary. Other-times they’re political. Sometimes they’re social. But by figuring out how you can take your project and its features and align them with something that decision-makers need, you’ll be successful. ♥

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

WELL partners with Binary Fountain (and introduces Sentiment Analysis)

 

Patient messages are an invaluable source of feedback—if only we could only track them all.

Thanks to an integrated partnership and a brand-new feature, we’ve found a way to make it happen.

WELL already gives you a way to connect to patients in the way that’s easiest for them, keeping you close to their journey and opening up the conversation. Now, you’ll be able to keep careful tabs on what your patients have to say—and jump in when necessary to resolve their concerns.

Binary Fountain

Working with Binary Fountain, a reputation management platform, we’ve made it easy to keep tabs on patient comments, identify trends and recurring issues, and perform fast service recovery when necessary.

  • We send comments and conversations—with patient health information removed—to Binary Fountain in real time. Binary Fountain monitors patient messages in WELL—along with online reviews, satisfaction surveys, and similar data sources—using sentiment analysis software.
  • The system scores each comment for positive vs. negative content and categorizes the patient’s message based on its content (whether that’s “quality of procedure” or “parking”).
  • A feedback dashboard identifies trends among comments and gives you an overall picture. You’ll be able to isolate results for specific clinics, hospitals, or providers within your enterprise, so you can celebrate successes and identify ways to improve.
  • A negative comment indicates that a patient needs attention. Now, you’ll have essential new opportunities to perform service recovery—engaging your patients and improving overall satisfaction.

Sentiment Analysis

  • WELL’s new Sentiment Analysis uses a machine-learning algorithm to read through patient messages. You’ll be able to perform immediate service recovery, triage when necessary, and track feedback trends.
  • When the algorithm detects negative content—whether it’s from a dissatisfied patient or someone experiencing an emergency—it turns the patient channel red and sets it to “open.” That way, you’ll know immediately when a patient needs your attention.
  • Sentiment Analysis also gives you a broader perspective on patient satisfaction. The feature assigns a positivity score to every incoming message. That means you can track patient sentiment across your enterprise—or isolate results for a particular clinic, department, or provider—using WELL Analytics.

And this isn’t the last word on Sentiment Analysis. The new feature has the potential to work with more of WELL’s existing capabilities—like Keyword Actions.

Looking ahead

Look out for more from us in the near future! We’re always working to improve WELL with new features and integrated partnerships. Don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions. ♥

InstaMed and WELL: An Easier Way for Patients to Pay Their Bills

 

We’re all patients here, so let’s be honest: we don’t always pay our bills the second we receive them. Or even the second time we receive them.

We’re not doing it deliberately. It’s just not convenient to spend time filling out a form and check, finding a stamp, and putting it all in the mailbox.

That’s why WELL and InstaMed have partnered to introduce a seamless new mobile-pay process (video). Together, patients receive alerts when they have an outstanding balance and can easily pay it where they already are: on their smartphones.

And patients aren’t the only ones who benefit. WELL customers can reduce the inconvenience of paper statements and lower outstanding accounts receivable—all with no extra work for staff.

Why auto-billing?

  • Payment is faster, easier, and more convenient—for health systems and patients alike.
  • Studies show 98% of text messages are opened, so patients are more likely to know what they owe.
  • Auto-filling patient information and balances eliminates reconciliation issues.
  • A health system can know instantly when a balance has been paid, reducing the need for follow-ups and phone tag.
  • No need to send out paper bills or deal with unwieldy envelopes.

Here’s how it works:

Automatic or Manual Options
Using WELL, you can set up an automation that goes out when a patient has an outstanding balance. If you’d like, you can also generate a manual message using the SmartPhrase {instamedPaymentLink}. Your message will include a link to an InstaMed payment page.

Auto-Filled Payment Page
When a patient clicks the link, WELL auto-fills the amount that’s due—along with the relevant account number—on the payment page. All a patient needs to do is pay the balance. And if they have payment information saved on their phone, they can use it here, making the process virtually effortless.

Permanent Record
As always, both the original message and a record of the payment will be posted to the patient’s channel. You’ll have a record of the entire exchange, forever.

Updated Billing System
When a payment is made, it’s posted to your billing or patient management system, so you can track who’s using InstaMed through WELL—and make sure it’s working for you. ♥

Build vs. Buy: the real cost of communication platforms

 

Build vs. Buy: The WELL edition

When you’re in the market for a communication platform, it’s tempting to try your hand at building it. You’ll invest time, people, and a lot of capital up front. But you’ll create something that’s tailored to your needs—and less expensive over the long run. After all, SaaS technology has been around for over 25 years. How hard could it be?

In the great “build vs. buy” debate, we’re the first to admit that we’re biased. But that’s not just egotism. We don’t want to see health systems invest millions of dollars and multiple years into a homemade system that’s hard to maintain and ages quickly.

People tend to focus on building costs—how much is involved in just building an initial product. But that means that the importance (and significant investment) of operations, support, relevant fees, ongoing development, and future-proofing often get overlooked.

To help customers make the best decision, we’ve put together a list of what needs to be built in order to have a communication platform that works for the current market. But then we’ll talk about some of the hidden costs—and the benefit of working with a company whose sole focus is maintaining and developing a best-in-breed product.

And finally, since we occasionally have to make build vs. buy decisions ourselves, we’ll provide some insight into the decision-making process we use. We hope it will be as helpful for you as it’s been for us.

Breaking down building costs

Overall, we estimate that it would take about 20 full-time employees about two years, at a bare minimum, to build a decent communication platform. Costs would be about $4 million. Those 20 employees will need to build and develop protocols for the following.

  • Security and HIPAA compliance
  • Deliverability and fallback
  • Text-enablement for existing lines
  • EMR-driven automation workflows
  • Vendor-driven automation workflows
  • Chatbot automation workflows that are compatible with the above, including a decision tree, natural-language processing integrations, and sentiment analysis
  • EMR integrations
  • Vendor integrations
  • Analytics
  • Internal messaging
  • Secure web messaging
  • Fully bi-directional messaging for both web and desktop applications
  • User management that allows you to define different users with unique permissions and access
  • Separate functionality and monitoring capacities for administrators and staff

Perfection: a moving target

Build all of that, and you’d have a serviceable platform. We’re pretty proud of what ours can do, and we’ve spent the past few years perfecting it.

But perfection is a moving target, and we’re obsessive about future-proofing. Without continual updates—which are inevitable as technologies, patient needs, and the healthcare industry as a whole change—a communication platform will quickly become dated and clunky.

For example, as healthcare moves toward a value-based payment model, and staying in touch with patients becomes more important, WELL has started building new features to enable post-visit care. Those include forthcoming health maintenance reminders and a new referrals function that helps patients to schedule follow-up appointments.

In addition, we’re always building new integrations and developing new partnerships. We recently configured hours-specific responses, custom holidays, and a brand-new Live Chat feature. We announced brand-new partnerships with InstaMed, Uber Health, RepuGen, and Binary Fountain, designed to provide effortless building, automatic transportation scheduling, increased engagement, and sentiment analysis. As part of our omni-channel strategy, we’re making WELL available through WhatsApp and developing our own iOS and Android app for secure messages.

The development never ends—and that’s exactly as it should be.

Ongoing support

Development aside, it would take a minimum of three full-time engineers to maintain the basic functioning of a communication platform—even if it’s a simple one. Those employees would monitor and improve deliverability, perform standard fixes and updates, keep security tight, support integration with the EMR and other vendors, and maintain documentation.

Because occasional bugs are inevitable, even in the best-designed system, engineers need to be ready to jump in to help 24 hours a day.

The price of wisdom

Without a doubt, the hardest thing for us to quantify is our expertise. We’ve spent years working with our customers to develop best practices and provide strategic input. We’ve crowdsourced the best patient engagement techniques and reminder strategies, especially related to when communications are sent and how they are delivered. And we use our communications knowledge and experience to help each health system achieve its own unique goals.

WELL’s support team members have extensive healthcare IT and integration experience. They come to us from companies like Epic, NextGen, and Mirth Connect, and they specialize in integrating between your EMR and our vendor platform based on the actions your health system is already taking. In other words: You continue your existing workflow, and WELL takes care of the rest.

It’s taken us years to develop this depth of knowledge—and remember, it’s our only focus. We’ve made sure that we’re experts in our field, and it’s our pleasure to pass that expertise on to our customers.

Assessing build vs. buy

We’re no strangers to this debate. At WELL, we’ve frequently had to decide whether we want to buy a desirable new technology or custom-build it. To help us make a strategic decision, we’ve compiled a list of considerations—and we hope it can help you too.

  • How long will this take to build and implement vs. buy and implement?
  • What are the ongoing support costs?
  • If we build, what’s the cost to maintain?
    • Are there hosting fees?
    • Will this need additional after-hours support?
  • If we build, what’s the cost to update?
    • Will this need additional features or updates over time? If so, what are the costs to develop those?
    • Will we need this to integrate with other systems or vendors in the future? If so, what are the development and integration costs?
  • What will this cost to specify and design if we build it?
  • What are the opportunity costs? Is this taking away from other potential projects that might be a better use of our time?
  • Is this a core competency of ours? If not, what’s the cost of developing this as a core competency (i.e. training new staff or broadening our strategic focus)? ♥

If you have any questions about what’s behind the curtains of a communication platform—or anything else—please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always available at (833) 234-9355.

 

Uber and WELL: Improving access to healthcare

 

When we think of access to medical care, we usually think about costs: Does this patient have insurance? Can they afford the bill at the end of the line? What’s the price of that medication?

But sometimes, the hardest part about going to the doctor’s office is just getting there in the first place.

According to the American Hospital Association, an estimated 3.6 million people in the United States miss out on medical care every year because of transportation issues. Likewise, studies have found that transportation problems are responsible for as much as 28 percent of no-shows.

When we talk about transportation, we’re covering a wide berth, from lack of access to a car to long travel times and lack of basic infrastructure. And while providing a ride to a stranded patient won’t address every disparity, it can make a huge difference.

Access through Uber

That’s why WELL has created a way for health systems to send an Uber ride to patients who need one—automatically, with no staff time or input needed. It’s designed to lessen those disparities and get patients in for vital care.

But providing an Uber does more than that. It’s a great way to show patients how important they are—and provide an amazing, concierge-level experience for a minimal cost.

The Uber workflow can be launched with a keyword trigger, and is coordinated by a conversational chatbot that can schedule a ride by itself. Here’s how it happens:

1. Keywords Kick It Off

Automatically respond to messages from patients that include words like “car” or “ride” using WELL’s Keyword Actions. Once a patient has scheduled an appointment, our system will look for trigger keywords and ask patients if they need a ride to the clinic.

2. A Chatbot Gets It Going

If your patient needs transportation, a chatbot will coordinate all the details—including getting the right address, calculating travel times, and automatically ordering an Uber. Everything is taken care of behind the scenes through the WELL API.

3. An Open Channel Alerts You

Although the chatbot can handle the whole interaction from beginning to end, your staff will be alerted if the patient needs help. A staff member can hop in to answer any questions, then guide the patient back to the automated conversation. (If all goes smoothly, the automation skips this step.)

4. Your Patients Are Delighted

Stranded patients are unhappy patients. But virtually without effort, you’ve reduced no-shows, shown your patients they matter, and helped to level the field for underserved patients. That’s a lot of goodwill for the price of a ride.♥

Meet the Team: Jamey Christensen, SVP of Sales

 

WELL’s brand-new SVP of Sales, wears a lot of hats

Jamey Christensen is an accomplished manager with a strong background in healthcare. A historical-fiction aficionado. A father of seven. And he’s as comfortable four-wheeling his way through the Utah mountains as he is running a meeting with WELL’s (sometimes boisterous) sales team.

We sat down with Jamey to learn more about how he got into business (he started young), his proudest achievements, and his advice to industry newcomers.

What does your role at WELL involve?

My role is to ensure that revenue is flowing into the company, so we can hire more people and we can grow this thing!

What’s got you excited about working at WELL?

The product, for one thing. There’s this major pain point in healthcare, and we’re fixing what’s broken out there. Then helping team members to grow and scaling the company are exciting to me. And it’s a fun culture; people are excited to be here, which is great.

Then there’s being able to hang out with the pups all day. It’s my first time at a dog-friendly office!

Where do you live?

Orem, Utah—an outdoor heaven. It’s basically a desert floor with beautiful mountains around it.

Who lives with you?

My wife and four of our seven children. (Three of my daughters are currently in college.) We also have two dogs: a Pomeranian and a brand-new Shih Tzu.

 

First job?

I worked on the family farm growing up. My dad bought a farm in Colorado, and my brother and I raised hay on it to earn money as kids.

Then, when I was 14, I owned a skateboard shop. My mom loaned me $250 for my business license, and I ordered all the supplies myself, marked them up, and sold skateboards to the kids in town.

Worst job?

I didn’t want to work on the farm one summer, so I decided I would try the Norbest turkey plant. I literally lasted four hours. Stinkiest job I ever had.

Where can we find you when you’re not at WELL?

Home, a lot of the time, or out on the mountain. I love four-wheeling, and one of my favorite things is to take my ATV out.

Then I go to a lot of track meets. Two of my kids in college run; so does one who’s in high school, and two of the little ones run for fun.

And finally, I love to read—especially business books and historical fiction.

 

Your top pet peeve:

When people make commitments and fail. If they struggle and fail, that’s one thing, but if they commit and then just don’t do it, that bothers me.

Proudest achievement, personal or professional?

Personal: Being a dad. My family. That will be my greatest accomplishment—although my wife deserves a lot of the credit.

Professional: I’ve had opportunities to help a lot of people. A lot of my reps are now Head of Sales or VP of sales at different companies, and I helped them get where they are.

Do you have a motto or mantra that defines you?

We have a statement in our house: “Kindness is where it all begins.” I think it’s really important to be kind first.

We wouldn’t know it to look at you, but…

I danced in the Nutcracker back when I was young. I played Mother Ginger. The kids loved it, but it was a little embarrassing.

I’ve learned this: The more things you try, the more life is a wonderful adventure. Sometimes you do things for others—like dancing in the Nutcracker—and it’s a wonderful experience.

The people you admire most are:

One of my former mentors taught my a lot about how to treat people and how you can help people as you do your work. Then I did my master’s thesis on Abraham Lincoln, and learned a lot by studying him.

But the two most influential people in my life were my grandma and my mother. My dad died when I was 15, and my character was really developed by the two of them.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?

Be the person in the room who works the hardest. If you jump in and you learn everything you can about the product and the industry you’re in, you’ll always find a path forward.

Also, be a student. You can’t ever stop learning. Things change, business models change. You have to be able to adjust to what’s happening around you.♥

 

Seniors are texting. Everyone else should text back.

 

When Alexis Kuerbis applied for a grant to study older adults and text messaging, she was shocked by reviewers’ reactions.

“Basically, I ran into a bunch of ageist and out-of-date attitudes,” said Kuerbis, a professor of social work at Hunter College. “They were saying ‘Older adults don’t use mobile phones. You’re never going to get them to engage in any technology.’”

But that wasn’t Kuerbis’s experience. At the time, she was participating in a study that involved using text messaging as an intervention for problem drinking, and older adults were among the study participants. “I was seeing people who were older and very tech-savvy, and able to engage in an intense assessment via smartphone,” she said.

What the science says

The scientific literature backed her up. Researchers have successfully used text messaging to engage older adults in everything from appointment reminders to medication management.

According to the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Americans over age 65 own a cell phone. AARP research found that 86 percent of Americans over age 50 communicate with text messaging. For those ages 50-69, texting has actually surpassed email as their preferred method of communication.

“We think of texting as a millennial thing, but people of all ages engage in it,” said Aaron Hagedorn, a gerontology professor at USC and widely-respected expert on older populations. “Every person is the same, regardless of age: We all want to engage socially.”

“In general, older adults are pretty open to using technology,” said William Chopik, a psychology professor at Michigan State University. In 2016, Chopik studied about 600 older adults with a median age of 68 to find out more about their use of social technologies like SMS messaging, emails, video conferencing, and Facebook.

The seniors in the study didn’t just have positive feelings toward the social technologies used; they were positively impacted by them. “It makes them feel less lonely, and, as a result, makes them happier and healthier,” Chopik explained.

“In every study I’ve ever seen about technology being applied to older adults and seniors for healthcare, across the board, they tend to like it. Separately, they also tend to get excited about it, because it feels fun and new,” said Kuerbis.

An outmoded perception

But we’ve all heard the stereotype: Older people and technology don’t mix. Where does it come from?

For one thing, Kuerbis says, it actually was true a generation ago, when older generations went their entire professional lives without using digital technology. Times have changed. “If you think about it, the generations that have aged in the past 30 years aged at a time when the world was being forced to engage in technology in new ways,” she explained.

Kuerbis’s father, for example, began using computers for work in the 1980s, but his parents never did. “There just isn’t the same level of digital divide.”

In addition, Hagedorn said, non-seniors often think of old age in the most dramatic possible terms: “We tend to think about the most disabled older people, and people tend to think that the design that works for them needs to address the most extreme circumstances in terms of color or size or demands on dexterity.”

But that’s not an accurate picture. For one thing, when we talk about older adults, we’re actually talking about everyone over the age of 50. That’s a huge and highly diverse population—one that covers people at the height of their careers as well as those who have been retired for decades.

And even among true seniors—those 65 and older—technology use comes pretty naturally, Hagedorn said: “I would say that among the population of people 65 and up, 80 percent of them would have no problem using a standard app. Another 10 percent of them could handle it with some assistance from others or on a tablet. The ones who can’t manage it are in a real minority.”

Engaging older adults in texting

“Text messaging is the least invasive and the most accessible [technology] across age groups. It takes the least amount of effort for older adults to use,” Kuerbis explained.

That’s not to say that those older adults use texting in precisely the same way younger populations do. For one thing, Hagedorn said, it’s much better if there’s a human on the other end. Older adults are “very people oriented, not technology oriented,” he explained.

How to reassure them that there’s a real person on the other end? “Ask them to reply back,” Hagedorn suggested. “The engagement of having to reply is a stronger reminder and forms a relationship.”

When it comes to appointment reminders, more is better, Hagedorn said. A one-time reminder will be less effective for a senior population than two or three spread out over a few days.

And Kuerbis’s research shows that older adults have some clear preferences about message content: Single punctuation was better received than multiple punctuation marks; messages without emoticons tested better than messages with a smiley face; and older people preferred “you” statements to “we” statements.

Finally, Hagedorn’s research suggests that trying to replace in-person relationships with technology isn’t likely to work well. When he conducted research that involved providing telehealth counseling to older adults, literally 100% of them said they would have preferred an in-person appointment. By contrast, “young people like telehealth counseling better. They feel more comfortable in their own homes, and they may actually reveal more.”

Instead, technology is more likely to engage seniors “if it strengthens a relationship that’s important to them, particularly if it’s related to an in-person experience”—precisely like a doctor’s appointment.

And despite the stereotypes, “older adults have a lot of concerns about staying connected,” Chopik said. “Technology is one of the ways they can increase their communication with the outside world.” ♥

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