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How Baylor Scott & White Innovators Built a Better App

By Mandy Roth  
   August 03, 2018

App is part of an initiative to improve patient experience and delight consumers.

Digital disruption has been slow to evolve in the healthcare industry, but innovation leaders like Baylor Scott & White Health, which has produced one of the highest-rated patient apps in the country, according to Apple Store, are making headway.

BS&W Health is one of the nation's healthcare systems that is taking innovation head on. Rather than turning to outside resources to transform the industry, these organizations are creating their own incubators, investment companies, and labs to develop and nurture ideas and solutions.

The resulting tools, devices, and processes these engines spawn not only help their system improve healthcare, but often result in for-profit ventures that hospitals or physician practices can adopt or purchase.

BS&W Health is one of 10 health systems presenting the insights behind their innovation practices at NEXT Hospital Innovation in Dallas, October 7­‒9.

As more systems test the waters of innovation, there is no ideal organizational path to follow, says Tom Bowen Wright, vice president of digital innovation at BS&W Health, the largest not-for-profit​ healthcare system in Texas with 48 hospitals and more than 800 patient care sites, 7,800 physicians, and 47,000 employees.

"A lot of our peers at other systems structure it very differently," he says. "Some people are going toward a [venture capital] model. Others have a very small digital team and leverage their physicians and operators to drive change. We've ended up somewhere in the middle."

  • The BS&W Health innovation team includes about 14 people, primarily ex-consultants who serve as change managers and project managers.
  • It also operates a digital lab with the equivalent of 50 fulltime staff members who focus on custom development.
  • The organization supplements its efforts through outside partnerships.

Bowen Wright points out that the rise of health system innovation arms also enhances opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring their solutions to market.

"There's enormous opportunity for a digital technology [startup] to partner with healthcare providers to create a better customer experience, more affordable healthcare and happier providers," says Bowen Wright.

One way BS&W has done this is through its MyBSWHealth app. According to June 18, 2018, Apple Store ratings, it rated higher than apps from health systems like Mayo Clinic; insurance carriers, including United Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente and Aetna; and the provider apps, FollowMyHealth and MyChart.

The app was created as part of a larger initiative to delight consumers with convenient, patient-centric care. In February BS&W launched a new website, combining and sunsetting two massive legacy sites. They also built a new app, which imports a rebuilt and redesigned MyChart app and expanded it to include functions provided by other apps.

The innovation team shared the following highlights:

  • Apps present a huge opportunity to health systems
  • The journey begins before the patient knows they want to end up at your system; it starts with the Internet
  • Patients aren't necessarily looking for your organization; they are seeking help finding the care they need. Organize your website so your organization is identified as a solution to their problem.
  • There needs to be a single front door; otherwise, your organization is imposing its complexities and silos onto consumers
  • Once your website is optimized, including mobile access, it's time to consider an app
  • Rather than expand the MyChart app and brand it as their own, BS&W built its own app and brought MyChart into it, then added the health plan, pharmacy and same-day care options, formerly provided by other apps
  • Behavioral science played an essential role in building the app. It's better to limit choices to three or four options rather than more. "If you give people more than three choices—definitely more than four—their default action is inaction," says Aasim Saeed, MD, BS&W's director of clinical innovation.
  • "Convenience is king," says Saeed, including pharmacy options to deliver medications to the home after an appointment

Learn more about how other healthcare systems approach innovation:

To sign up for NEXT Hospital Innovation, visit the registration page.

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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