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Improving Patient Experience Through a Digital Formulary

A positive patient experience can help bolster digital therapeutic engagement and can help drive down the cost of care.

Optimizing patient access and experience beyond the four walls of the hospital is the new normal for health systems. Health systems must embrace new ways of doing business to meet the demand for virtual care and compete with nontraditional players. Meeting this demand includes delivering the right information to the right patient at the right time, creating a new strategy to address low patient engagement with education content and addressing disparate workflows to deliver digital therapeutics.

One solution to address these emerging issues is to create a digital formulary to help aggregate digital healthcare tools to order from one location in the electronic health record (EHR). Creating a digital formulary on an enterprise level can help unite the patient and provider experience, which can help lead to enhanced satisfaction. A positive patient experience can help bolster digital therapeutic engagement and can help drive down the cost of care. So, where does a health system begin?

Let’s explore how one large health system created a digital formulary and implemented its digital health strategy across the enterprise during the peak of a global pandemic.

A guide to a digital health formulary

Banner Health is a health system headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, with more than 2,000 providers. The health system operates 30 hospitals, including three academic medical centers and other services across six states.

Prior to the pandemic, Banner Health found itself in a unique situation possessing several digital therapeutic assets but lacking a formal process governing utilization. The rise of COVID-19 expedited the need for Banner Health to devise a plan to address this very issue. Banner Health tapped digital health engagement director, Jonathan Schremp, to lead these efforts. Jonathan formed a multidisciplinary team to create a plan to implement an enterprisewide digital health strategy.

The lack of a centralized location for these assets required an embedded option to distribute digital therapeutics while striving for a united and enhanced patient and provider experience. As Schremp described, “Myself and my team are interested in making sure we line up patient experience as our number one north star or guiding light behind strategy.” Through their research, Banner Health identified Xealth as their vendor to collaborate with Cerner in implementing the embedded digital health technology they needed.

Through these collaborative efforts, Schremp and his team focused their strategy around three key areas: reduce insurance costs, patient experience and exceptional care delivery. These foci led to the formation of what Schremp called their “platform play” and ultimately what drove their overall strategy. The platform play helped enable Banner Health to digitally meet the needs of their patients while also meeting the needs of their clinical care teams. 

Specifically, Banner Health worked with Xealth, which helped Banner reach into the world of digital therapeutics with capabilities embedded into its Cerner EHR. From there, providers were able to identify a centralized digital formulary, order relevant digital tools from an existing workflow, deliver orders to the patient via email or patient portal, monitor patient usage and measure utilization and impact of those digital therapeutic assets.

Now that Schremp and his team identified a strategy to deliver digital therapeutics on an enterprise level, the next question was how to ensure that these digital therapeutic assets were not only being utilized but also provided the best experience for the patient. The answer to this question was found in the creation of a governance committee and process.

The process involves six key steps to help ensure current and new digital therapeutic assets were up to par. Let’s look at this process from the perspective of a new digital health tool. First, stakeholders identify the need for a new digital health tool. This product is researched and evaluated, then presented to the governance committee. Once the committee approves the proposal, the implementation process can commence. The implementation process is passed over to the digital health team to push out to end users. Post-implementation, the governance committee continuously monitors the performance of the digital health tool to help ensure it meets the needs of the end users. If not, the product is removed from the digital formulary, and the process restarts when a new product has been identified.

Focusing on the patient experience as the guiding light to this strategy led to key benefits for patients, providers and Banner Health overall. From a patient perspective, Banner is now able to offer “as much self-access as possible and enables us to meet the patients with some of their expectations of being able to take care of themselves at home,” Schremp explained. For providers, their “ability to gather patient-reported outcomes data from outside of the four walls of our clinics is a differentiator and a real way that we’re able to do intervention higher up the stream,” he added. Most importantly, Banner Health identified opportunities to optimize its staffing needs to meet the needs of its patients. 

The success Banner Health experienced in implementing an enterprisewide digital health strategy and formulary was the result of using the patient experience as the north star of their strategy. Through the exploration for an enhanced patient experience, Banner Health found they were able to meet not only the patients’ needs but also those of the clinical care teams who worked with the digital health tools daily. The outcome of the new strategy meant Banner Health could continue providing the utmost care to their communities during the peak of a global pandemic and beyond. 


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