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Consumer-First Focus at Advocate Aurora Health

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   September 13, 2021

Chief brand and consumer experience officer, Kelly Jo Golson, details the strategies behind the health system's consumer-first focus.

The pandemic has shifted the way consumers expect healthcare to be delivered. Technology is being further utilized to ensure a more convenient patient experience. In-person care is now among multiple options for patients, with the accelerated use of telemedicine and digital apps being introduced and adapted.

Advocate Aurora Health, a nonprofit health system with dual headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Downers Grove, Illinois, is among the health systems adapting to these consumer expectations.

HealthLeaders recently spoke with Kelly Jo Golson, the health system's chief brand and consumer experience officer, where she detailed the organization's strategies behind its consumer-first focus.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: Why does Advocate Aurora have a consumer-first focus?

Kelly Jo Golson: We've been down this path of putting consumers first in all we do for some time, and certainly the past year and a half has accelerated that focus. As a healthcare provider, we see our role expanding beyond the traditional way of caring for the sick, and we see ourselves as playing a role to enhance the overall health and wellness of individuals and consumers.

We know the way that consumers experience the world. Whether it's through banking, leisure, education, their expectations on the experience, the ease of experience, and access has evolved, and we don't think that healthcare should be any different. We think that we should hold ourselves accountable as a healthcare system to deliver on that optimal experience for consumers in the healthcare and wellness space. We've been invigorated and committed to put consumers first in all decisions, and all things that we do from end to end through the whole continuum of health and wellness.

A lot of organizations are able to say they are "consumer first" or offer "consumer-focused care," but working within an organization that is putting that at the center of our strategic plan in all things we do is really meaningful.

HL: How does empowering consumers affect patient engagement and health outcomes?

Golson: The engagement piece is so critical. If you look at an individual patient who maybe is dealing with a chronic issue, and you look at the number of times that they are going to be scheduled for a live visit to come in to see a physician or provider, it's rather small in their whole span of a lifetime.

As we're able to put these tools of health and wellness at the fingertips and in the palms of consumers, we're able to enhance those outcomes. We're not only able to connect, and communicate, and offer them tools and resources at the time of care, but we're able to offer those resources 24/7. By allowing a consumer or patient to engage directly with their own health and wellness journey, we believe that ultimately improves outcomes on the back end of care.

HL: What marketing strategies have the health system utilized to further its consumer-first journey?

Golson: It all starts with consumer insights. If you're going to say consumers are coming first, then we need to go to the consumer and we need to learn their needs, their wants, where they see obstacles, and how we can best improve their experience in a meaningful way.

Starting with those insights has allowed us to focus on five key things.

1. LiveWell, our consumer-facing app.

It is a single, comprehensive, digital ecosystem that's connecting consumers with all things health and wellness 24/7. It lives out our commitment to provide ease of access and simplicity, anytime, anywhere.

We were on that journey and had already launched the app prior to the pandemic beginning, but what's happened during the pandemic is accelerated, whether it's because individuals were homebound because of some of the mandates within COVID, or perhaps they were just seeking to better connect to their overall health and wellness during that time. Our adoption of LiveWell has grown significantly over this past year and a half. We're to about 1.2 million users and downloads of our app.

Based on some of the things we saw during COVID, we've been able to add to the functionality of the app. As an example, we were able to track that more consumers were going to the guided meditation piece within our app. Over the past year and a half, we've taken that functionality within our app, which is offered at no cost to our consumers, and we've expanded on the offerings. You can pick the duration of time that you do a guided meditation, there's more options, you choose the music, you choose the background, and we're proactively pushing that out. It's something that we've been able to use even with our own team members.

We were also able to stand up a COVID symptom checker and our safe check access. So, as you're entering and going to go into one of our campuses, you can do some screening on whether or not you've got a temperature, or you've been having any of the signs.

Having that strong foundation before COVID started, and then listening to and watching consumers' needs and wants, and how they were utilizing the access, has allowed us to continue to grow and expand the offerings.

2. Telehealth

There has been the capability for providers to offer virtual visits for some time, and if you go back and look pre-COVID, nationally the adoption rate was low. The utilization was not on par with what the technology and the capabilities were. That has shifted now due to a couple of reasons.

Our physicians and providers embraced the utilization of virtual care. In addition to that, our consumers were anxious to find a way to stay connected to their health and wellness during that time. Our numbers grew, probably tenfold, from where they had been in pre-COVID times. The exciting thing is that's begun to change the dialogue. Instead of approaching things on why telemedicine won't work in that circumstance, we're flipping that to say how can telemedicine work in this circumstance.

It's important to note that we are in no way suggesting that all care is going to be delivered virtually. We think that in-person visits are critically important, especially for some chronic conditions. However, being able to add those virtual check-ins in between the live encounters is a huge value add for the patient as well as for the physicians and providers, and ultimately it will improve the outcomes. I would suggest we're beginning to scratch the surface of the many possibilities that lie within the telemedicine space.

3. Self-service capabilities

It's not just the ability to schedule online, it's the ability to search for your physician or your provider.  It's the ability to understand who takes what insurance, who's closest to your home, then being able to schedule an appointment and finding one that works for your schedule. Then you're getting text reminders, you're checking in virtually, you're getting follow-up messages virtually, all of those things we're focused on in the enhanced scheduling bucket.

4. Digital platforms

One of the things that we have seen with continued growth in this area is consumers' utilization of digital content, to seek and find information on all things health and wellness. We're making sure that we've got those resources that are constantly updated and at the fingertips of consumers, and when they need that information that those resources are there.

5. Consumer engagement platforms

Our consumer engagement platform allows us to focus on a 360-degree platform that allows us to connect with consumers. Whether that's through consumer relationship management communication, we know who you are, we know what your needs are, we know what your preferences are. Creating that 360-degree viewpoint and connectivity with consumers end to end is our other focus.

“Working within an organization that is putting [consumer focus] at the center of our strategic plan in all things we do is really meaningful.”

Melanie Blackman is a contributing editor for strategy, marketing, and human resources at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Advocate Aurora Health's consumer-first focus was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health system's consumer-first strategies include the utilization of technology to ensure an easier user experience such as the LiveWell app, telehealth, and self-service capabilities.

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