Podcast: episode 119

Sep 03, 2021

Seeing patients in a new light

Seeing patients in a new light Featuring Brad Fixler of UCHealth

One heck of an 18 months UCHealth has always tried to show diligence in learning about patients and empathizing with their experiences, but COVID-19 accelerated that understanding as public health conversations became more frequent and urgent. When COVID-19 struck in March 2020, they had to reset priorities overnight because people were now looking to health…

One heck of an 18 months

  • UCHealth has always tried to show diligence in learning about patients and empathizing with their experiences, but COVID-19 accelerated that understanding as public health conversations became more frequent and urgent.
  • When COVID-19 struck in March 2020, they had to reset priorities overnight because people were now looking to health systems for information.
  • UCHealth’s marketing team essentially turned into a communications team, with 70% of their marketing staff focused on supporting COVID-19-related communications.
  • UCHealth started to gain deeper insights into public stressors and pain points because patients were having more conversations about health.

From listening comes understanding

  • COVID-19 highlighted health inequities because these disparities showed up in ICU admission and ventilator usage volumes.
  • UCHealth started to realize they’d never mapped out the entire patient experience from a cultural perspective. So, rather than looking at disparities exclusively from a care interaction perspective, the team started to look at disparities as a continuum.
  • The impact on certain populations is much higher than it is on others. Take, for example, downward trends in life expectancy. White Americans’ life expectancy average dropped a little over one year since COVID-19, but Black Americans’ average dropped almost three years.

Social media becomes a crucial learning channel

  • Social media has always been part of UCHealth’s marketing strategy, but since COVID-19, it’s been the dominant channel of focus for the team.
  • UCHealth makes concentrated efforts to make sure the patients’ perspective is represented before the system’s perspective. This focus on the patient has dramatically increased engagement, offering UCHealth more direct patient communications to learn from.

Shifts in public expectations and local legislation

  • Provider reputations have been a rollercoaster over the past few years. First, price transparency laws put providers in the hot seat. Then, when COVID-19 struck, providers became celebrated heroes. Now, providers are back to scrutiny from the public, media, and legislators.
  • Colorado is in the process of passing legislation that would rely heavily on health systems to bring healthcare costs down.
  • The public is missing the “whole picture” when it comes to care delivery value. Health systems need to communicate their value to the community wholistically – beyond the itemized bills.
  • For example, health systems shouldn’t be faulted or penalized for seeking commercially insured patients to make up for the millions in losses resulting from unpaid medical bills.