The team at Winona Health knows a thing or two about the value of asynchronous telehealth technology. Nestled among bluffs along the Mississippi River in the southeast corner of Minnesota, Winona Health is a rural, independent community health system that went live with Bright.md in 2019.
We sat down with Winona Health’s Jessica Remington, Associate Vice President of Business Development, to discuss the system’s strategic priorities, their patients’ and providers’ thoughts on Bright.md, and how our virtual care solution has helped provide an innovative patient option for care with little administrative burden.
Bright.md: Tell us more about Winona Health and your strategic priorities. What are some of the problems you’re looking to solve?
Jessica Remington: A significant part of our future is continuing to grow our value-based work and advance our population health strategies. These two go hand in hand—it’s about delivering better outcomes while reducing total spend, and doing so in a way that meets patients where they are. In many regards, it’s about getting creative about how we deliver health care. Having a robust data maturity model obviously feeds into this as well. As a community health system, I think we do a very good job of partnering with other community-based organizations and stakeholders. The key to improving health is collectively reducing barriers together, recognizing that no single organization is going to accomplish this alone. We’ve also done a ton of work around screening for social determinants of health and building intercultural capacity across our organization to serve and support our community.
It’s also important for health systems to envision what the consumer experience post COVID-19 will look like. The pandemic obviously led many health systems to expedite their virtual care strategies. Ensuring this is a seamless process and understanding the role of telehealth and how it fits in your existing workflows in the future will be essential.
The last piece worth mentioning is around having a healthy and thriving workforce, and the general challenge around finding great candidates. We continue to discuss recruitment and retention. For me, that also means thinking creatively about how we fill roles and leverage technology. For example, we leverage AI [at Winona Health] for pre-authorizations and benefit and eligibility checks, and maximize people resources for those authorizations that require a call. It’s essentially having people work to the top of their skill sets, while leveraging technology in routine tasks that can be automated. I think strategies like Bright.md offer a way to provide a unique service without heavily burdening existing resource structures.
Q: What were some of the reasons Winona Health decided to partner with Bright.md for virtual care?
Remington: Bright.md is a great product, and in many regards, perhaps even ahead of its time. When we first launched, insurances were not consistently covering asynchronous care. Fast forward to the onset of the pandemic, we were positioned really well to offer consumers a resource that didn’t involve coming to the clinic for care. I really haven’t seen a comparable product in the marketplace to what Bright.md offers. Offering basic acute care asynchronously (versus synchronously) provides a fast, convenient, effective, and cost-effective experience for patients.
From the operational side, we incorporated these visits into the Urgent Care providers’ workflow with very little burden. With Bright.md, providers deliver care to patients within a one-hour window of when they complete their clinical interview. I think it’s important that we move forward with this type of virtual care to stay competitive, but also provide a really convenient and cost-effective service to our patients.
Q: As some of those reasons for implementing Bright.md have been realized, where have you seen the most success, and where have you had some challenges?
Remington: Bright.md does help us be more competitive, and provides another way for us to offer fast and cost-effective care for our patients. The product is great—so far, Bright.md users are typically a younger demographic. I think having this product positions us well as those individuals become greater consumers of healthcare. One of the biggest challenges is simply managing patient expectations about what the product is and how they use it. Although it lets our providers deliver care quickly because it’s asynchronous, patients sometimes get confused because they’re not able to speak with providers in real time. It’s also not a substitute for primary care. Our team works to communicate and educate patients on the product and what the scope of it really is; we continue to educate about the right time to use Bright.md rather than a different option for care.
Q: You mentioned Bright.md has allowed Winona Health to be more competitive. What are some examples you can give that showcase that?
Remington: If you do a simple internet search of “virtual care” it gives you an idea of the myriad of options a patient now has to receive care. Health systems no longer only contend with the competitor next door, but now have to consider the numerous competitors states away (albeit they are virtual). I believe that health systems that do not carve a space in virtual care will lose a large opportunity to engage and build relationships with their patients. It’s also super important from a continuity-of-care perspective, and directionally a key component to our value-based care model and overall population health strategies.
Q: How have your clinicians responded to Bright.md? What has their feedback been?
Remington: The overall feedback has been really good. In the beginning there were a few providers concerned about overly complex individuals using Bright.md when they would be better served seeing their primary care provider in person, and I completely understand that. I think it goes to my comments earlier about educating patients on the right time to access asynchronous care, the importance of helping patients be good consumers of healthcare and choosing the most cost-effective option based on their need, and also the importance of monitoring data. Bright.md has good data reporting structures in place so you can see potential topics of concern like antibiotic stewardship, etc. From a functionality perspective, the product works great, it’s easy to use, Bright.md listens and incorporates feedback, and the chart-ready SOAP note makes documentation quick and easy.
Q: What have you found most successful to educate and encourage Winona Health’s patients to use Bright.md?
Remington: In addition to traditional marketing methods, we’ve done coupons and email campaigns. We found that email campaigns have been one of the stronger strategies for us. We’ve been promoting it as part of direct-to-employer packages as well, and have included it in our own employee well-being incentives here at Winona Health. I do think that’s an important piece [of adoption]—if we can continue to educate and encourage our own employees to use Bright.md, it becomes top of mind. They will also be able to speak to the modules available and can better explain when it makes the most sense to use Bright.md or seek care via our other routes.
Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Remington: We’ve got a couple areas that I’m excited about—the first being we are working with the Bright.md team on “portal free interview.” Historically, we’ve had patients access Bright.md via their My Winona Health portal, but the portal free interview process will allow any past Winona Health patient to access Bright.md without needing to have a My Winona Health account. I think this will be so helpful for adoption of this product.
We are also working with the Bright.md team on Navigate (or Care Finder), a way for patients to quickly and easily find the most appropriate care setting. Bright.md’s Interview tool is also another option I’m looking forward to exploring more, hopefully leveraging this tool to improve our workflows and eliminate the need for providers to stay late to finish documentation.
Overall, I’m very excited about this digital health space and looking forward to see what Bright.md comes up with next. Bright.md really does provide an exceptional level of customer service, I’ve been impressed by their responsiveness and willingness to collaborate. It’s been a great partnership for the last several years and I look forward to what’s ahead together.