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Innovation remains critical to strengthen patient experience and improve care delivery

An executive Q&A with Manny Rodriguez, Chief Marketing, Experience and Customer Officer at UCHealth  

Healthcare professionals are currently vying to come up with the next innovative solution to solve the most critical operational and clinical issues the industry is facing today. While oftentimes organizations are complacent when it comes to making improvements, most professionals in the sector recognize the need for something new to deliver change, particularly for the patient experience.

UCHealth is one health system that’s pushing for a change in how the healthcare industry delivers care. More importantly, the vision for UCHealth lies not in a single innovation, but in the drive to pull together some of the most brilliant minds in tech, IT, and health, and give them the tools to rethink the delivery of medicine.

Read on to hear from Manny Rodriguez, Chief Marketing, Experience and Customer Officer at UCHealth, on how the organization is using innovation to improve the patient experience and how artificial intelligence (AI) is integral for access to care and convenience.

Can you explain UCHealth’s mission and how this translates to care for its patients inside and outside of the hospital?

Our mission is focused on caring for patients when they need our help, and assisting in helping them return to their lives so they can get back to doing all the things they love, while staying healthy. UCHealth hospitals make high-quality care accessible to everyone, and we are expanding opportunities for people to access our services through financial assistance, technology, and a commitment to Medicaid services. UCHealth is currently investing more than $100 million to expand access to behavioral healthcare and create greater awareness of issues like depression, opioid addiction, and suicide. We’re also pushing the boundaries of medicine and delivering advanced care—including comprehensive transplant services and excellent oncology outcomes for patients—throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

UCHealth cares for 1.7 million unique patients each year, a number that has grown significantly since we formed as a system earlier this past decade. Quality, safety, and patient-experience metrics have all improved, and continue to positively increase on an annual basis. We are also grateful to our affiliation with the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where our patients across the system have access to the most advanced medicine—including specialists and clinical trials that aren’t available anywhere else.

What is UCHealth’s approach to staying current with industry trends such as access to care and convenience?

Innovation is a strategic priority for UCHealth, which has led and will continue to lead to significant investments and partnerships with other innovative companies across the nation, all with the end goal of transforming the future of healthcare delivery. These initiatives include decision-support tools embedded in the electronic medical record, which help doctors make more accurate diagnoses and develop faster treatment plans, with the added advantage of giving them more face-time with patients in place of time spent updating records on the computer. These tools use big data and machine learning to create more efficient operating rooms and infusion centers, virtual health and telehealth services, and online scheduling. With them, busy operating rooms and infusion centers are able to care for more patients while reducing wait times, reducing overtime, and improving patient satisfaction. While receiving chemotherapy infusion, a nervous patient can don a virtual-reality headset and take a vacation at the beach or in a European city. Patients now have unprecedented access to their electronic medical records and their doctors’ notes, and are even able to use tablets at their bedside while in the hospital. Furthermore, many of these innovative tools being developed through UCHealth partnerships with other companies are now being used at hospitals across the nation.

How does UCHealth play a role in the industry’s shift towards a consumer-centric care model?

Our focus on innovation has already brought about significant achievements with direct impact on access to care and convenience. For example, UCHealth now offers a virtual assistant, Livi, who allows patients to interact universally across the healthcare system using conversational AI. She is accessed through UCHealth’s website, mobile app, and voice assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa. This technology is one of the most comprehensive virtual assistants offered by a U.S. healthcare system, and it can help with search functions like finding doctors, services, locations, and health information. Patients can use Livi to send messages to doctors, view test results and appointments, and receive reminders to check-in online.

Our vision for Livi as a fully functional, all-inclusive virtual assistant doesn’t stop there. We want her to help our patients stay healthy and live life to the fullest, so we’ve developed Livi to offer users access to lifestyle information beyond personalized and general healthcare. We’re focused on building diverse skills into the program, so users can easily find out the moon phase for a night hike in the mountains or locate the best place to check out the summer wildflowers. Livi can provide users with updated weather forecasts, ideas for recreation in Colorado, news about local sports teams or concerts and how to get tickets, pollen-count numbers for those who have allergies, topical stories from our blog, and more. Since going live, Livi has chatted with more than 77,000 users across 245,000 queries. Thanks to Livi, we are learning more than ever about what patients want and need from us—and with that information, we can continually improve her skills to meet those needs. Conversational AI is a technology that has the opportunity to offer 24/7 access to information in an engaging, conversational way. There are plenty of hurdles to scale to get to that “ultimate” experience, but it’s an exciting time to watch the pieces fit together.

Care delivery is a hot topic in the industry today, and making significant improvements will require healthcare systems to continue developing innovative solutions like virtual health assistants and virtual-reality headsets that go above and beyond the call of duty. The patient experience will greatly benefit as a result.