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Modernizing the Patient Experience Through Technology: The Experience Engine

Will True, <em>ACCC Communications</em>

October 2, 2018
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With rapid advancement in cancer treatments and the increasing prominence of immunotherapies, the complexity of clinical care has grown substantially. But the patient experience, which is crucial to quality care and patient retention, has received less attention in the face of similarly increasing complexity.

For the Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan, the answer may lie with the same technology used on cruise ships and at Disney theme parks.

Beginning this fall, Henry Ford will implement The Experience Engine (TE2) to modernize and revolutionize its patient experience. Henry Ford will be the first health system to make use of TE2, an experience management platform by Accesso that offers a suite of customizable tools.

In the entertainment industry, TE2 is used to compile data on customers, preload preferences, and track their movement from area to area. On a Carnival Cruise, for instance, customers are given a Bluetooth wristband that grants them access to certain areas, and their schedules are customized to show dinner times and offshore excursions. Henry Ford is tasked with extrapolating the appropriate activities to implement in a clinical setting. “We want to use this to do whatever we possibly can to remove any ounce of worry or stress that is not medical-related,” says Steven Kalkanis, MD, medical director of Henry Ford Cancer Institute. “Patients have enough to deal with when they have a scary diagnosis.”

Using Bluetooth technology, the program plans to track patients starting as soon as their arrival for their first appointment. TE2 will let the concierge know of their arrival and direct them straight to a room that has been prepared in advance with materials specific to their diagnosis. TE2 will also allow patients to video chat with distant family members and offer a pathway for built-in supportive service referrals, as well as support greater collaboration among cancer care team members. “You don’t just go to one cancer doctor […] all of this coordination takes effort,” says Dr. Kalkanis, “and so if ever there was a patient diagnosis and experience that needed this type of intervention, I think we’re starting in the right place.”

Kalkanis believes that using TE2 will not only help meet the increasing demand for quality care, but will also help the health system retain patients. “You can go on Amazon right now, buy any object made by man, and have it delivered to your house by tomorrow morning,” says Dr. Kalkanis. “You can understand why patients with the ability to shop around will do so, in large part because of the patient experience.”

But with this significant leap forward in technology, Henry Ford has not lost sight of the needs of its patient population. Because the Detroit area skews toward the elderly, the cancer center made a conscious effort to use technology that patients were already comfortable with, including LifeAlert-like devices designed to connect them directly to a dedicated patient navigator. According to Spencer Hoover, Henry Ford Health System’s Vice President & Executive Director, each patient will have one stable source of information, a real human being that can usher them through this process.

Updating the patient experience doesn’t solely have to be the purview of large health systems, says Hoover. To modernize the patient experience, “the smallest but most important step is to recognize and prioritize [the patient experience] as an issue. I think every health system has invested in new electronic medical records, and precision medicine is becoming more and more prevalent, and people are investing in high-end genetic tests. But if you don’t also recognize that you need a way to take all of this medical and clinical information and make it relevant to the patient, it’s not going to work.

“Even simple things like rearranging how patients interact with you when they first call to make an appointment, or making sure that access to a cancer consultation is seamless. Or, [with] the organization of appointment scheduling, making sure that peoples’ records are appropriately sorted through—that alone will make great strides.”

“It doesn’t have to be space-age telemedicine on a smartphone,” says Dr. Kalkanis. “The analog ways of doing things can also be enhanced.”

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