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Reaching Vulnerable Underserved Communities with Royal Tuthill, General Manager at Docent Health
Episode 1231st January 2022 • This Week Health: Academy • This Week in Health IT
00:00:00 00:05:52

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Today on Insights. We go back to a conversation Host Bill Russell had with Royal Tuthill the CoFounder & President of Docent Health. The topic of discussion was Reaching Vulnerable Underserved Communities. And Bill asks Royal to explain the sophistication yet simplicity of text messaging technology.


Hello and welcome to another episode of Insights. My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system 📍 and creator of This Weekin Health IT. A channel dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. Our hope is that these episodes serve as a resource for the advancement of your career and the continued success of your team. Now onto the 📍 show.

Today on insights. We go back to a conversation host Bill Russell had with Royal Tuthill, the Co-Founder and President of Docent Health. The topic of discussion was reaching vulnerable underserved communities. And Bill asks Royal to explain the sophistication yet simplicity of text messaging technology.

Former CIO for a large health system and we had similar populations to the population that you're talking about. So I want to change this up as, okay you had me at hello, I'm interested, but now I need to understand it further.

So are we talking about client-facing technology? Are we putting something on a phone? Are we talking about technology that we're putting in front of care navigators that's connecting the housing, transportation, education needs, and those kinds of things. What are we talking about?

Yeah, let me explain the technology a little bit. On the patient facing side there's no apps to download. There's no portals, there's no websites or logins to remember. It's primarily a text messaging based program and a phone. And we have web surveys as well, but it's primarily a text based program and we do automated push campaigns, bi-directional AI communications and then two way communication as well for navigators and for care teams.

So on the patient facing side, and this has been hugely important to the hard to engage communities, that it's leveraging the tools that they have in their pocket today and works for at risk and vulnerable populations. It also works really well for commercial insured patients. And that's been a key part of the program to getting really high engagement rates so that we can connect with patients early.

We can get more frequent data points. We can build connectivity, we can understand who they are. And then we also have the navigators and so some of our partners will work with outsource navigators from Docent. Some of our partners just licensed the technology to scale their teams, their care managers, social workers, community health workers. The technology platform then is really designed to integrate data sources from the EMR, from the practice management system, each tap spilling to get a holistic profile of who that patient is as a person and then workflow tools that we cue off of that will then surface activities up into a care management platform for the navigators to use, or then triggers messages directly out to the patient.

And so there's a really coordinated program that's built to longitudinally guide a patient through that journey. And we're surfacing up the right information at the right time to keep them engaged and on the track. And if we learn more about them as we capture social determinants of health, as we capture personal preferences, we can then, we have a mapping of what the resources are and that could be community resources or hospital resources or clinical resources or digital apps to download.

We can make the connections between the patient attributes and the attributes of those programs to know what are the next best steps or what are the next best resources to get those individuals connected to.

Yeah. You know what I love about, as a technologist, we have people on the show. They're constantly talking about AI. They're constantly talking about really cool smartphone apps and navigation that, but one of the principles you dropped there, which I think is so important is a technology, the best technology is the technology that people can use. And you looked at the communities that you serve and you're like, you know what?

Texting is a way that you can really get to a majority of that population and interact with them pretty easily. It's is that the principal that really you, you looked at and designed around?

Yeah, absolutely. We made a strategic decision not to build an app a number of years ago. And I think especially now during the pandemic and COVID-19, we've seen a lot of our partners look to us and really lean in to using text messaging because it's so much easier to drive engagement. And there's certain things that you can't communicate over SMS. It wouldn't be clinically appropriate, but you can use that as a channel for engagement to then connect them to other services.

And so it's been a really important part of that arsenal to drive connectivity and engagement and more frequent points of connection over time.

But just because it's text-based doesn't mean it's not high tech. You're talking about artificial intelligence to get a whole person profile and then map the right services to those individuals. So you're using a lot of data bringing that data together and really making decisions around what's the best nudge to help people to make the right choices.

Yeah. Yeah. So a big part of this is getting the data together to understand what's going on and having this air traffic control system for patients so you can see where they are as they navigate the system. And then a rules engine off of that so we can then trigger what are the right messages to the patients at the right time and then AI capable abilities to help scale some of those communications, understanding when it's appropriate for a human to actually intervene and drive engagement when appropriate, what are the right resources to be connecting and pushing through that channel?

So there's a lot of sophisticated tech to your point underneath text messaging is funny, feels like the new killer app these days but in order to make it effective, it does require a lot of sophistication underneath.

I want to thank Tracey for another great episode. If you have feedback regarding the content and materials that you just heard 📍 and would like to help us to amplify great thinking to propel healthcare 📍 forward, please send us a note Thanks for listening. That's all for now. 📍