Aligning health system priorities for innovation


Being responsible for innovation—in a famously slow-moving industry—can feel like an oxymoron.

Somehow, it’s your job to simultaneously resolve individual pain points and develop a long-term vision for the way your health system runs. And getting people on board—either for individual solutions or long-term pain points—isn’t always easy.

At WELL, we’ve worked with a wide range of innovation leaders, and we’re used to helping bring people into alignment as they implement our platform. We’ve seen heads of innovation who were great at getting buy-in across their organization. We have also seen the particular areas where they’ve struggled.

Get an overall picture

Rather than trying to learn the ins and outs of each department from the beginning, start with the CEO or head of your health system. What are their large-scale goals for the organization? How are they being measured? These things vary hugely across organizations.

Once you understand those things, it’s easier to ask individual departments and heads how their objectives align with the larger vision. That way, the solutions you develop will be more strategic and targeted toward your health system’s overall goals, rather than being small-scale fixes for isolated problems.

It also means that you’re more likely to get buy-in. Helping colleagues toward their own strategic goals is the best way to get them on board.

Find pain points

That said, a large part of an innovation leader’s role involves listening. “If you walk into a room and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ you have already lost people,” said John Halamka, the executive director of Beth Israel’s Health Technology Exploration Center.

He makes it a point to ask colleagues, “What are your business problems? What are your pain points? What are the things for which, if there were a technological solution, you really would feel better about your workday?”

Put solutions first

While it’s easy to think primarily in terms of solutions to existing problems, it’s not always that simple. According to Michelle Stanbury, vice president of innovation at Houston Methodist, the invention of a new solution sometimes can bring a hidden problem to light.

“You may not understand the pain point until you understand what’s available in the industry,” she said. Houston Methodist’s group of self-titled DIOPs—that’s “digital innovation-obsessed people”—actually begins by keeping a close eye on new technological developments both in healthcare and elsewhere. When they see an exciting new technology, Stanbury said, the next step is to “wonder if we can bring that back into healthcare.”

Not all organizations are as tightly focused on innovation, and it’s common to encounter some resistance from key figures. At WELL, we’ve had a lot of experience working with people in these roles. Below are some key strategies for getting them in your camp.

Chief Financial Officer

“If you go to a chief financial officer and claim a return on investment on an IT project, most savvy chief financial officers will not believe you,” Halamka said.

It’s counterintuitive. After all, CFOs are focused on financial impact, so it makes sense that you’d want to show a direct relationship between a new innovation and a specific, measurable outcome. But it’s also a CFO’s job to be risk-averse, and no solution is guaranteed to produce a solid return on investment.

However, they do understand the importance of benefiting the organization in other ways, so it can be more effective—and more flexible—to make a case based on potential impact. “Focus on other things: the strategic imperative, the impact factor, the safety and quality, and the compliance and regulatory side,” Halamka said.

In particular, he recommended focusing on patient satisfaction, improving physicians’ and staff members’ work lives, and presenting a cutting-edge image to the world. “The health care system wants to be known as tech savvy,” he explained.

Chief Medical Officer

A CMO is most likely dealing with a burned-out physician group. “Physicians want to get back and spend more time with their patients,” Stanbury said. A savvy CMO will be interested in natural-language processing or AI solutions that can help make that happen.

In addition, CMOs care intensely about clinical outcomes, and metrics are important. Before you bring an idea to your health system’s CMO, spend some time reading studies that support your proposed innovations—and if possible, reach out to the experts who wrote those studies. The expertise and data they provide can go a long way.

According to Halamka, never underestimate a CMO’s role as peacekeeper. “A chief medical officer’s role is to align all of these individual, sometimes strongly opinionated, clinicians to a single path forward,” he said. “If you can, as an innovation officer, go to the chief medical officer and say ‘I have a product or an idea that will standardize work and align clinicians to do things one way.’ The chief medical officer will jump for joy.”

But it’s important to be humble—everywhere, but perhaps especially here. Healthcare is a complicated space, and patient outcomes are hard to measure and prove. You may be persuaded by the first set of metrics you present, but a CMO may not. Enlist the help of experts and re-frame your case.

Head of Marketing

“How is the organization perceived?” is the first question on a marketing officer’s mind, whether they’re thinking about acquiring new patients or just the health system’s brand perception more generally.

This can be a great thing. A new technology may not move the dial for a CMO or CIO who’s focused on results. But a marketing officer is likely to love it, provided that it makes your organization look innovative and forward-thinking.

A marketing officer also differs from other leaders in one important way: Everyone else is more invested in the existing structure and patient population. By contrast, marketing wants to reach out into the world, attracting attention and acquiring new patients.

Innovations designed to attract patients—such as a new technology designed to improve communication, or Houston Methodist’s new app intended to give patients easier access to the health system—are likely to go over well. So are smaller-scale implementations that don’t have an easily measurable payout—like introducing a new live chat designed to capture new patients.

Finally, a marketing officer may be particularly interested in integrations that raise the brand profile. Partnering with a major name (such as Uber Health) will help your health organization appeal to a larger community. If you’d rather not take on the considerable work of partnering, look for vendors that have already developed multiple integrated partnerships, which takes the heavy lifting off your shoulders. ♥

Live Chat: The Fourth Piece of the WELL Puzzle


It’s a familiar story:

A patient moves to a new city. She’s just started a different healthcare plan with her new employer, she doesn’t yet have a doctor, and she’s not feeling well. Looking online for a healthcare provider, she comes across a website for a local health system.

Now, that health system can be there to greet her in real time, thanks to a welcoming, personalized new feature: WELL’s Live Chat.

Live Chat

Traditionally, communication platforms weren’t designed to serve people like our hypothetical newcomer. Instead, most are focused on providing information to established patients through one communication method. WELL is already ahead of the competition in offering three ways to connect with patients: phone, bidirectional text, and bidirectional email.

But Live Chat is the fourth piece to that puzzle, making it possible to capture new patients and other visitors to a health system website.

Here’s how it works:

When someone—whether it’s a new patient, a doctor, or an administrator—visits an organization’s website, there will be a chat button in the lower right corner. If the visitor clicks the button, they’ll be launched into a chat window that connects them to a WELL user in that office.

Customize your Live Chat window

That window is fully customizable: Health systems can change colors and add a logo, so the chat window is a perfect match for their existing brand. It also persists across the website, so a prospective patient can look around—and schedule an online appointment—while having an ongoing, real-time conversation with a staff member.

Live Chat works with all the WELL features you love

And WELL’s existing Mentions feature works in Live Chat, allowing a staffer to direct a conversation to the right person in their enterprise. For example, if a new patient asks “Do you take my insurance?” and you’re not sure, tag your billing department for an accurate answer.

Using Keyword Actions, you’ll also be able to create automatic responses to specific words in the patient’s email. For example, the question “Where are you located?” could automatically trigger a link to a map, ensuring a quick, helpful response—and a delightful experience for the patient.

After all, we’re all about delightful experiences at WELL. As we’ve said before, the patient journey is much longer than the time spent in a doctor’s office. Live Chat lets our customers start that journey with their best foot forward. ♥


Maximize portal enrollment with WELL

Epic is an amazing platform, and WELL can help you realize its full potential. That’s especially true where MyChart is concerned.

Even at the very best of times, portals can be an uphill battle. A recent, large-scale study led by University of Michigan professor Denise Anthony confirms it. The study found that among patients who had health insurance and had visited a doctor in the last year, 63 percent of them had not used a portal during that time.

That’s where WELL can help. Our secure system is designed to integrate with Epic in ways that will increase patient enrollment. And that’s not just theoretical. Cedars-Sinai reported a 19% increase in MyChart portal enrollment using WELL.

Enrolling patients in MyChart:

When a patient schedules an appointment, WELL’s system can request an enrollment code from Epic, then embed it in a link that we’ll send to the patient. When the patient clicks that link, they’ll go straight to your enterprise’s MyChart portal.

This makes portal enrollment nearly effortless. The link auto-populates with the enrollment code and other necessary information; the only thing the patient has to do is enter their personal information for security (usually birthdate and the last four digits of their SSN).

Downloading the MyChart app:

For patients who are already enrolled, scheduling an appointment can trigger a message with a special link to your organization’s MyChart iOS or Android app.

If the patient has already downloaded the app, the link just takes them directly to it, encouraging them to take a look around. If they haven’t, they’ll be taken straight to the app store to download it.

Once a patient is enrolled:

Epic can send MyChart notifications through a third-party messaging vendor. When you use WELL for those notifications, those messages will go out when new information is available, encouraging patients to actually use their portals. They’ll receive notifications of incoming lab results, unread messages from a provider, new billing statements, and much more.♥

If you have any questions about enhancing your MyChart enrollment—or anything else—don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re at (833) 234-9355 or

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