It should shock no one to hear the healthcare industry can be a confusing labyrinth for patients. Whether it’s trying to figure out a payment or which specialist they need to see, it can be a daunting experience. Docent Health, the latest venture from founder and CEO Paul Roscoe, seeks to lay up an assist for patients by offering a hybrid of human and technology services to help navigate their journey. The thought is if patients have a pleasurable experience, they’ll be more willing to return to a provider the next time they need care.
To that end, Docent Health mixes online services through a technology platform and offline services via patient liaisons to help guide patients through the complex loom of the healthcare industry. The company began working in an incubation stage through the summer months of 2015 and officially got off the ground in November when they started the seed round funding with venture capital investors.
While Docent is currently piloting the technology platform with a hospital, it’s gearing up to ramp up operations as it recently hired Kim LaFontana, who helped athenahealth go public, as Chief Product Officer and Angie Fyfe, who comes with a varied career in operations, to run the company’s patient liaisons component.
Roscoe recently spoke with Healthcare Dive to discuss Docent Health, its model and population health.
Healthcare Dive: Can you tell us about what you’re bringing to the industry’s table with Docent?
Paul Roscoe, Docent Health CEO: I think health systems are starting to transform the way they think about patients, to think about them more as consumers and start providing services to them as they might experience in other industries. These services could include online access and making easier appointments or referrals. Healthcare systems need more real-time feedback on whether they are doing a great job with the patient and the patient experience. Part of the technology we’re building helps them focus on that and helps understand the patient sentiment throughout the journey.
The other thing we’re working on is segmentation. A lot of other industries do a great job of segmenting their consumers into different groups and making sure the experience they offer tailors to that particular segment. If you go into other industries, the notion of the customer journey is well understood. The notion of segmentation and providing different digital mediums to communicate with customers -- the omni-channel approach -- is well understood. Healthcare traditionally is a “one-size-fits-all” industry so part of our technology helps health systems segment their patient populations into different groups and provide a more tailored experience for those segments.
There are customer experience companies that think “If it works for Trump Hotel, it can work in healthcare” and I think that’s a very narrow view. There are different things you need in a patient world than in a traditional world and we’re trying to balance them.
How does the patient liaisons concept work?
Roscoe: If you are a 25 year old, you might want a much more digital experience where interactions and the information presented to you are done through a digital medium. If you’re from a different demographic, you need a much more human-centric approach. From our feedback from hospitals, we hear patients need to feel like they’re being heard.
The patient liaisons we provide in our model are meant to be embedded inside the hospital and/or in a call center and provide a human-centric touch to the patient through the different parts of the journey. This journey doesn’t start when they go in the front door of the hospital. It starts way before and doesn’t end when they leave the hospital; it ends post-discharge. At different moments, there’s a liaison to help patients get access to services, understand their eligibility, or understand payment transparency before they come in for a procedure. If in the hospital, they can help with nonclinical guest services that might need to be done (maybe set-up transportation services post-discharge to visit their primary care physician).
Why the need for this hybrid technology/human approach?
Roscoe: Our view is hospitals need some help with this human-centered, consumer-experience mentality. Generally, they never had to hire for that type of staff. Nurses, physicians, and nursing physician assistants are not generally hired for their hospitality, they’re hired for their functional skills. We think there’s a gap in many hospitals for this empathetic, hospitality-trained resource to augment the current staffing offered by hospitals to provide that navigation service that doesn’t exists today.
As hospitals spend more and more time uplifting the patient experience, the model of both technology -- which is capturing the information that isn’t being captured by today’s clinical and financial systems inside the hospital -- and the services in the form of the liaisons is a valuable combination.
What sort of pools will you be recruiting from for the liaison service?
Roscoe: When you think about this type of service, you can see two experience paths coming into play. You can see ex-nurses who have been in the hospital setting and understand healthcare delivery but could be interested in another career outside of nursing while still working with patients. You can also see an avenue where someone outside of healthcare comes in from the hospitality sector or another sector that has a customer and emphatic focus.
What are some interesting developments you’ve seen in the industry lately?
Roscoe: The interesting area for us is around consumerism but also how that plays into population health. Health systems are going through a transformation not only on consumerism but also transitioning from fee-for-service (FFS) to value-based care. One of the questions I get asked a lot is “How does Docent help in a risk-sharing world?” and I think the reality is health systems need to create this rich relationship between themselves and a patient to create a brand and create loyalty between the patient and the health system.
Generally, that’s something they haven’t had to focus on in the FFS world where it’s been more transactional. We’re moving from transactions to interactions. These interactions build brands, loyalty, and, ultimately, advocacy.