June 29, 2021

Creating A Successful Digital Patient Experience Strategy with Daniel Ruyter

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About the Episode:

For years “digital front door” was just another buzz phrase that highlighted the gaps between consumer expectations and healthcare’s digital capabilities. Now, patients are accessing healthcare and engaging with providers in ways that seemed far-fetched only months ago. Our guest Daniel Ruyter, Corporate Director of Digital Strategy at Orlando Health, shares his insights on healthcare’s digital front door.

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About the Podcast:

The Engaging Healthcare Podcast by Stericycle Communication Solutions features conversations focused on the challenges, trends, innovations, and hot topics of the healthcare industry. Hear industry experts share their approaches to transforming healthcare and give fresh perspectives on the future of value-based care.

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Mark Angus: “Welcome to the Engaging Healthcare Podcast presented by Stericycle Communication Solutions. I'm your host, Mark Angus. We are providing you with insightful commentary on the healthcare industries challenges, trends and hot topics. To learn more about how we help modernize patient engagement and maximize patient outcomes, head over to StericycleCommunications.Com. For years, digital front door was just another buzz phrase that highlighted the gaps between consumer expectations and healthcare’s digital capabilities. Now, patients accessing healthcare and engaging with providers in ways that seemed far fetched only months ago. Today's guest, Daniel Ruyter, a Corporate Director of Digital Strategy at Orlando Health is here to share his insights on healthcare’s digital front door. Daniel, thank you for joining us today.”

Daniel Ruyter: “Hi, Mark. Thanks for having me.”

Mark Angus: “So to start. Can you briefly give our audience your definition of a digital front door and speak to why now, more than ever, it's crucial for health systems to have its own front door strategy.”

Daniel Ruyter: “Yeah, of course. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I appreciate you letting me be a guest on this show. Digital front door, while that can mean so many things to so many different people, the right. I mean, to me. I take a very I would say loose definition of it. And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's not. I'm not sure. But the digital front door in my mind can really vary depending on the customer and where they are in their relationship with the healthcare system. It could be a digital ad, for example, a Facebook ad or a search ad. It could be more traditional in the home page of the website. But I guess the way that I would define it if I needed to put a definition to it would be whatever the first digital touch point is for a customer with a brand. Right why is it more crucial than ever? Right was the second part of your question. We all experienced COVID maybe slightly differently, but I think what as a marketer, what I definitely saw is that COVID forced the hand of a lot of companies to think differently and work differently. Right suddenly our brick and mortar locations, which is still and probably will remain very important in healthcare, it became more difficult to do business that way. And for a period of time, it actually became impossible to do business that way, especially in a ambulatory outpatient setting. But that really shine the light on our need as a healthcare brand to provide a digital experience that worked for the customer, first. That's why you saw the rise and continue to see the rise of things like telehealth and virtual visits and things like that.”

Mark Angus: “So you're talking about something that would be applicable or personalized to each customer, is that correct?”

Daniel Ruyter: “Yeah, I do think of it that way. And in that personalization would shift as the customer's relationship with the healthcare system, with the brand shifts as well. Right in the beginning, you may only have an awareness, but not necessarily an affinity to a brand. You might not have ever interacted with a brand, and your first touch point might be an organic search result. On the flip side of that, if you're a regular customer, if you have an existing relationship with a primary care physician, for example, you may think of the digital front door for that relationship as the practice website or as the mobile app for the health system or your patient portal login. It can vary and it can change over time.”

Mark Angus: “And that also comes down to the preferences of you as the patient or the consumer. So the way we prefer to engage.”

Daniel Ruyter: “Exactly correct. That's that's a great point.”

Mark Angus: “So clearly it's important for health systems to have a digital strategy then in place. But some organizations are simply replacing a patient's analog experience with a the digital one, right so how do providers reimagine that experience and truly create a strong digital CX ecosystem?”

Daniel Ruyter: “That is a great question. I think one that gets asked a lot, and I think I've heard some great answers and I'm going to borrow from some of those answers that I've heard. But add not only my perspective, but the perspective of healthcare as well, maybe more specifically. But we've all, as consumers have been almost trained, probably heard the term Amazon effect or something similar. Right? “The Amazon of” or “the Uber of healthcare”, for example.”

Mark Angus: “Uber-ize.”

Daniel Ruyter: “We have certain expectations as customers, right? Yeah and brands like Amazon and Uber have built those expectations. I think that it's dangerous for healthcare to think that we're immune to those that were different, and we are. Don't get me wrong, I've worked in healthcare for over eight years now, and I know that the way that things work in healthcare are just different. But from a consumer standpoint, I think if they heard us saying things like that, it would sound like an excuse to them. We can't deliver an experience like Uber because we're healthcare and we're different. We have to come up with ways to deliver experiences that get closer and closer to their level of expectation that have been set by other brands. Most of them, many of them outside of healthcare.”

Mark Angus: “And how do you do that, how do match that experience?”

Daniel Ruyter: “That's a great question. What I'm trying to do, the position that I'm trying to take in trying to lead my team and my organization is through empathy. I think marketing in general, if you're an empathetic marketer, you're a better marketer than if you're not right. And I think we've seen that in general as organizations evolve from not just advertising, not just bullhorn style marketing, but to inbound digital, need based, relationship based, personalized. The more you know about where the consumer is not just physically but mentally, emotionally, especially in healthcare. I mean, buying a car is hugely stressful, but it doesn't compare to choosing a physician for your cardiac needs or for your cancer needs. Right that's just the next level. That's next level stressful. Life or death decisions.”

Mark Angus: “Absolutely yes.”

Daniel Ruyter: “So empathy, I try to think not just like the customer, but I try to put myself in the shoes of the customer and, you know, partnering with other internal teams and external partners. Learn as much about the customer as we can. Right, we have focus groups. We have patient advisory boards. We have a customer insights team. The more we know about where they are, what their state of mind is, what's important to them, what's not important to them, the better experience that we can provide ultimately.”

Mark Angus: “And ultimately that can translate into that digital experience, so, I’m hearing you talk about empathy. And empathy is a human emotion and it is so important, right, to connect with people on that level. And so what you're saying is that you then can translate that by having those insights. You can translate that into the digital experience that they have because you've understood what their needs and preferences and wants are essentially.”

Daniel Ruyter: “Yes yes, that's correct.”

Mark Angus: “That's very powerful.”

Daniel Ruyter: “It can be.  It can be also very challenging, though, too, as you can imagine.”

Mark Angus: “Yes, absolutely, absolutely and I think it brings me to my next question then, that there are so many different components that go into creating a successful digital strategy. It can be overwhelming for those health systems that are revisiting or creating the digital strategy. So if the health system were to focus on one key area of the digital patient experience strategy, what you believe the primary focus should be?”

Daniel Ruyter: “That's a good question. The simple but wrong answer would probably be saying some specific technology or platform like the website. Right that's very broad. It's very generic. And it might be that elements of the website or elements of a digital mobile app or something like that would be the one thing that you should focus on. I think focus is really the operative word in that sentence, not the one thing. Through empathy, what I try to do is I try to find what the biggest pain points are to the customer. It can be very overwhelming for marketers and maybe especially in healthcare. There's so many opportunities, so many challenges. It can be resource intensive tasks. There are things that we have to do differently. Retail doesn't have to pay attention to private health information the way that we do. Right so we just have to operate differently. So really identifying what the biggest pain points are, and making those in priority order the one thing. Right if it's incredibly hard to find where your providers are when they're open, what their hours are, how to contact them, maybe that needs to be your one thing, right? If you can't find your product or your service in this case, then that's a huge barrier. So maybe that's your one thing for now and then your one thing next becomes scheduling. And then you're one thing after that maybe becomes bill pay, your one thing will change. But I do think that it should be prioritized based on what you think or what you believe to be your customers biggest pain points.”

Mark Angus: “Right that’s where their primary focus should be in solving that.”

Daniel Ruyter: “Exactly.”

Mark Angus: “And how do they find that out? Would that be by actually connecting with the customer and researching? You mentioned focus groups earlier. Is that the way they can find out what those pain points are?”

Daniel Ruyter: “So I think the best way is talking to your customers as much as you can, either formally through focus groups, informally or less formally through surveys. I know that all healthcare organizations in the United States at least do serving, but they're serving usually, we're serving usually on the clinical experience, the care experience. It's very rarely anything to do about the digital experience that led up to the clinical experience. How is your wayfinding experience navigating to your clinic or your surgery center or whatever? A lot of those things are often overlooked and that ends up becoming a big rub for patients that once they got there, the experience was great. The receptionist, the intake process, the clinical team members, they were top notch, but gosh, I couldn't find a place to park. I didn't know where to park. I didn't know that it was on the fifth floor, you know what I mean? Like navigating in the logistics of that, that stuff that we don't usually survey on or ask our consumers to provide feedback. But I have a feeling there's a lot of front door opportunities in those areas. And surveying focus groups, patient advisory boards, those are all great tools. The more that you speak with your customers, either virtually or in reality, I think that's better. You can also derive behavior and preferences through examining where people are going on your website, where people are not going on your website, where they're spending more or less time. But that's more of a deductive process and less tangible facts. The more you know, the more you can get actual responses from your customers, the better.”

Mark Angus: “This is very, very insightful. I really must thank you for your time today and for joining us today and sharing this very informative insights that you've had on healthcare digital front door. Thank you.”

Daniel Ruyter: “Thank you, Mark, I appreciate your time, too.”

Mark Angus: “Thank you very much. And we look forward to seeing you on further podcasts Daniel, thank you. Thanks for listening to the Engaging Healthcare Podcast presented by Stericycle  Communication Solutions. Continue the conversation by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you enjoyed the podcast, be sure to subscribe. Until next time.”

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