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Sutter Health staying agile to improve patient experience with digital automation

ViVE preview: A mix of high-touch patient experience with strategic chatbot implementation is a winning recipe to improve care delivery.
By admin
Mar 6, 2022, 8:12 AM

In a rapidly transforming, post-COVID world, many healthcare systems are looking to improve the patient experience. And to captivate today’s digital-savvy patients and streamline physician care, Sutter Health healthcare system is putting into place new strategies to ease the burden on patients and physicians alike. Sutter Health’s team knows that a positive patient experience can reduce readmissions, improve outcomes, increase financial success, and improve systems for clinicians and staff. 

Digital patient communication is not new to Sutter Health, which started using Epic software in 2001 and continues to innovate its digital platforms. Dr. Albert Chan, vice president and chief of digital health at Sutter Health, is the corporate champion for transforming web and mobile health care services, translating the latest advancements in digital health into consumer-centric patient experiences and digitally empowered clinician workflows. Today, more than 100 million people use Epic and Chan’s team takes a systematic approach to looking at the entire patient journey—from contemplating a medical problem to closing encounters.

Historically, patients would call doctors’ offices for appointments or referrals – or maybe search online – when there was a medical concern. But Sutter Health offers an alternative way via its partnership with the Ada, a 24-hour-a-day chatbot that engages with patients and helps them decide if they need care and, if so, where to go to get that care. 

“In my mind, it’s like having 60 doctors in your pocket,” Chan said. 

Chan says the My Health Online platform makes the entire health experience less frustrating for patients and physicians alike. For example, one tool in the system can notify a patient of a cancellation so that they can instantly grab the open slot to see the physician earlier than originally scheduled. On average, Sutter Health patients using the feature can now see a doctor 16 days sooner than before it was in place. 

“In our minds, the so called last-mile problem of ‘hey, how do I remove these annoyances and improve the experience?’ We look at each step and figure it out,” Chan said. 

When discussing these processes with administrators, Chan says he can see their “aha” moments, but implementing these transformations is not always easy because, as Chan points out, “change is hard.” He says it takes digital literacy and looking at a problem differently to produce these ideas. 

Like other health systems, Sutter Health saw a boom in patients’ digital usage during COVID-19. 

In 2019, Sutter Health hosted 7,400 telehealth visits. In 2020, that number hit 1.1 million. And two years later, there is no indication that this reliance on digital will slow down.

The health system recently launched My Chart Companion for a healthy pregnancy sends weekly updates to patients about practical medical needs at each stage of pregnancy, in addition to tips for greater care such as preparing your home for a baby. In the first few months of the program’s launch, 6,000 mothers-to-be have already registered.

Chan will be presenting, “Icing the Patient Experience Cake with Automation,” at the ViVE event on Tues., March 8 when he’ll discuss the rapid migration of patients to digital healthcare platforms to streamline the doctor-patient experience.

Read more of our ViVE event coverage:


Jacqueline Renfrow is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience reporting on and writing about the intersection of healthcare, education, and retail with technology. Living just outside of Washington, DC, she enjoys exploring all that the nation’s capital has to offer with her husband and three children in tow.

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