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Strategies to Bring Patients Back

A conversation with Sanjula Jain, Ph.D., SVP, Market Strategy and Chief Research Officer, Trilliant Health, and Doug Ardoin, M.D., President, Physician Network, AdventHealth     

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Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.: It's my pleasure to introduce Dr. Doug Ardoin from Advent Health; thank you for being with us.

Doug Ardoin, M.D.: Oh, it's my pleasure.

Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.: You have been in a unique position during the pandemic to see some unusual healthcare activity that's different for your markets relative to what's happening nationally; tell us a little bit of what you're seeing in terms of patient healthcare behaviors.

Doug Ardoin, M.D.: I think a lot of what we saw was very typical; I feel like patients followed the lead of the health system. I was lucky to be involved in collaboration with the other health systems in Tampa. Together we made decisions with the county health department, and what have you, around things like, how are we going to respond to this? How do we all work together around having better testing? What are we going to do when it comes to providing procedures in the hospital, and what have you?

So, high-level of collaboration between us and the other health systems in Tampa, and then with the county, with the county commissioners, and then I felt like, patients kind of followed suit.

They were really looking to us for leadership in this area. So, in the beginning, I think they understood and kind of tolerated and said, okay, I may not be able to go in and see my doctor; I think a lot of our patients were worried about safety, worried about going to the emergency room. Other people are going to be sick; they're going to the hospital; if I have to go, am I going to be protected? Going to see my doctor, are they going to offer me an alternative, like a virtual visit or tele-visit, where I can still take care of my issues?

From my perspective, because of some of the unique activities, I got to be involved with, at a higher county level, multisystem or collaborative level and then seeing what was going on in the news and what have you, I really felt like patients followed our lead. I think today, even today, as things begin to open back up in the Tampa Bay area, I feel like patients kind of follow our lead.

I think they do trust us. They trust what we're telling them so that when we started to advertise, it's safe to come back; then we started to see people come back to the offices, to specialty visits, and to the hospital.

So in Tampa, what I've noticed, at least for Advent Health, is I don't have access to the other health systems, their numbers, but where our ER visits really dipped off and were down for quite a while now, we're back to where we were prior to the pandemic, the same thing for hospital admissions, and what have you. We have seen people coming back; I think they're following our lead.

Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.: Well, I have data for all health systems to be able to see the longitudinal, so what's interesting is, given your geography, in particular, Advent Health is seeing more of a return relative to your peers and other markets. A big part of that has been because patients wanted to move to live in Florida during the pandemic; right, they moved down south. Have you seen differences in the patient characteristics and profiles in the last two years that have started coming into Advent Health? Are they different than what they were like before from a consumer attributes perspective?

Doug Ardoin, M.D.: I haven't really noticed anything; ideal, probably more with payers than I do with patients directly; we have noticed a growth in some of the ACCA plans in our markets and attracting a lot of patients, growing pretty quickly. So, that may be a reflection of who's moving into the community as well.

Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.: So, in addition to patients, there has been a lot of changes in physician preferences and practice patterns, and you spend a lot of time thinking about the physician network. What new dynamics are you seeing that might represent longer-term shifts in just physician preferences?

Doug Ardoin, M.D.: What I think we've noticed from a physician and a provider perspective is that the pandemic was really tough on providers, and as they've come back to the office and they've started to work again, we've definitely seen a little bit more burnout because of what they went through and then returning. It's reflected in some of our physician engagement scores. We've got some work to do to kind of work with them and bring them back. I spent a fair amount of time with a clinical psychologist who is dedicated to our employed medical group and that staff. I know that she has been quite busy doing a lot of counseling and working with a lot of our providers. The burnout and some of the moral injury of what they dealt with during the pandemic, and then trying to come back and trying to regain some normalcy.

Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.: That makes sense. So maybe the final question; we've talked a lot about all the different dynamics that have really fundamentally changed or accelerated changes to the health economy. As you think about going forward, there is this common theme that health systems and that kind of health system traditional business model is being disrupted, right? There's a lot of competition in the market. What do you think health systems going forward, to be competitive, are going to need to be doing differently?

Doug Ardoin, M.D.: I think you have to think about what your consumer truly wants. I think for the longest time, providers thought what do we want? e think that if we build some new building over here, or do some new thing over there, almost like if we build it, they will come. I think sometimes we miss the mark on what our consumers really want. I really do believe that the pandemic, in a lot of ways, whether it was the great resignation or whether it was other things that were a side effect of this, I think patients might be feeling like it's time for me to demand what I really want and make sure the healthcare system understands you got to meet me where I am, and you have to do you got to deliver care to me in the way I want it delivered to me, and the type of access points that you're building isn't easy for me to get to. You have to make it easier for me; you have to make it more convenient for me. You have to think about giving me a different level of service than what you've given me in the past. These are some of the things that healthcare providers need to be thinking about going into the future; doing a lot more listening to the consumer and meeting the consumer where they want to be met.

Sanjula Jain, Ph.D.: Well, said.