Baptist Health begins $100 million total digital transformation
Baptist Health South Florida is swinging for the fences with a new digital transformation initiative that aims to revolutionize how patients seek and receive health care.
The goal, said Brian Keeley, Baptist president and CEO, is to transform the faith-based, nonprofit organization into the “Amazon Prime of healthcare in South Florida.”
“We expect to spend something north of $100 million,” he said. “We can either lead or follow, and we decided we were going to lead this thing.”
Baptist has identified several “work paths” to overhaul its many systems and centers that stretch from Palm Beach to the Florida Keys and to its international services in Latin America, said Joe Natoli, executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
First among them, he said, is using technology to enhance a “continuum of care” for patients, from the moment they feel symptoms, visit Baptist’s website, schedule an appointment, use wayfinding to get to a doctor’s office (if needed), register using a touchless interface and receive clinical care to post-appointment follow-ups, prescriptions and billing.
To that end, Baptist this week introduced a new scheduling and registration system for its smaller facilities in Homestead and the Keys using software developed by healthcare technology services company Cerner. That system should come to all of Baptist’s hospitals over “the next year or so,” Mr. Natoli said.
Baptist is also focusing a lot of energy and resources on its new website, set to debut in December, which is being designed to be as intuitive, responsive and attractive as that of the nation’s top e-retailer.
“We want to be as easy to do business with as Amazon and other places you work with,” Mr. Natoli said.
Big data analytics – using artificial intelligence to examine enormous amounts of information and transforming them into something actionable – is also key to Baptist’s futurization.
“With all the research being done, it’s impossible for any human to keep up with the very latest on everything, but technology and big data gives us the ability to take advantage of all that information,” Mr. Natoli said. “We’re trying to enhance the value of the data, to curate it in a way that it can really assist us in decision-making.”
Mr. Keeley said Baptist has already “built significant capabilities” for data analytics at its Miami Cancer Institute. Now, he said, work is ongoing to build similar provisions for other specialist centers within the system.
“This will be an evolution that will go on forever, basically,” he said, adding that the search for a new Baptist chief digital officer is now underway.
In August 2016, Baptist launched its app-based telemedicine platform, Care On Demand, after seeing a sharp rise in requests for urgent care – medical treatment that requires quick attention but isn’t serious enough for an emergency room visit.
Those have grown apace alongside outpatient services, which Mr. Keeley said is Baptist’s largest area of growth.
Developed by Boston-based telehealth company Amwell and rebranded by Baptist, Care On Demand provides patients with 24-hour urgent care, behavioral care and a host of other services like post-surgical review, cancer symptom management and neonatal care for mothers for as low as $59 per remote visit.
Patients can also use their smartphones to access the service for prescriptions or to schedule visits with area specialists in psychiatry, pediatrics, endocrinology and cardiology, among others. No appointment is necessary.
After the coronavirus hit, the number of patients who use Care On Demand has exploded, according to Baptist Outpatient Services CEO Nancy Batista-Rodriguez, who said roughly a quarter of its current users will probably continue or increase their usage once the pandemic passes.
“This pandemic is redefining what consumers and patients find acceptable,” she said. “It’s really exciting. Consumers are seeing how this new way is just so much better in many respects.”
Many doctor-patient interactions have now moved onto telehealth platforms and will do so at an increased rate as Baptist further digitizes offerings that don’t require physical interactions like general consultations, lab result reviews and many pre- and post-visit processes.
The benefits are multifold, said Dr. Jonathan Fialkow, executive medical director of Baptist Health Quality Network and co-chair, with Ms. Batista-Rodriguez, of Baptist’s telehealth steering committee.
One such advantage, he said, is that providing remote care for patients with low-acute ailments provides doctors with extra time to see patients who require physical visits for more serious treatment.
“Right now, there’s still a whole cadre of people who need to be seen but can’t because you’re filling up [your schedule] with things that can be done in telemedicine,” he said.
On the opposite side, people who need care for less serious problems but put off treatment because of how time-consuming traditional doctor visits can be now have a simpler, more efficient and flexible option.
“These are people who might have suffered [and] gotten worse,” he said. “Maybe you can’t leave your kids to go to the emergency room. Well, now you have this kind of visit and can get it taken care of.”
And it’s not just for young, tech-savvy patients. A 2018 study of 1,052 patients aged 60 and older published in the International Journal of Emergency Medicine found that they were about as satisfied with telemedicine as their younger counterparts and “demonstrated flexibility and interest in the novel use of technology.”
Those findings remain true for South Florida seniors, Ms. Batista-Rodriguez said.
“The 60-plus-year-old person today is very different than from years ago,” she said. “They go on Facebook and Instagram. They Facetime.”
Baptist will always need physical spaces to treat patients. However, the mounting shift of some aspects of health care to digital spaces could affect how the hospital system uses its tangible properties.
In growing its footprint in the future, Ms. Batista-Rodriguez said, Baptist will have to consider how much certain treatments and specialties will call for in-person visits and adjust the size of new properties, as well as where to acquire them.
Overall, Baptist will need less bricks and mortars to provide the same services – a change, Dr. Fialkow said, that should result in reduced costs for patients.
“Maybe that’ll help flatten some of the health care spending [curve],” he said.
Bypassing physical restrictions in providing health care could also give Baptist the opportunity to expand beyond its regular service areas. Were that to happen, Baptist could start competing nationally and, perhaps, the globally.
“It’s fascinating where this will go, where the regulations allow us to [go and] what will set one system apart in an area where other systems can come in,” Dr. Fialkow said. “It’s opening a whole host of new issues, but it’s the direction we’re rapidly going in.”