From the latest in imaging technology to advancements in cancer treatment, to even the fastest vaccine rollout on record, patient-focused innovation is an area where healthcare thrives. But when it comes to patients as customers, and the communication and service around their care outside of the hospital, healthcare isn’t often best in class.
“When I was going through my own healthcare challenges, I had phenomenal staff and facilities, but my own experience managing my care was very frustrating. Not because of the people or the hospital itself, but because they were forcing me to talk to them in a way that wasn’t comfortable, which meant that I didn't follow their instructions,” WELL Health CEO Guillaume de Zwirek said.
Thus began the brainchild for WELL Health, a company focused on bringing first-class customer service to the healthcare industry by letting customers communicate via the channel of their choice with their hospital, doctors, pharmacies, and all the individuals integral to their care, all from one place.
When it comes to technology, the healthcare industry thrives on customization over standardization. This is great for the patient care experience (for example, a doctor that specializes in a disease or condition), but not so great for customer service (automated robotic messages, endless hold times, empty mailboxes). Because of so many nuances within healthcare however, standardization of technology for patient customer service is very difficult to achieve.
“There are so many custom applications in healthcare, such as technology for first-time moms going through pregnancy, loved ones who have just been moved into skilled nursing, monitoring of recovery following surgery and more. This means there are thousands of workflows to integrate into and adapt communications for. That’s a lot to think about when it comes to managing and streamlining relationships,” de Zwirek said.
For de Zwirek, it also comes down to the idea of build versus buy. Build makes a lot of sense when you’re solving one problem, for example, sending an appointment reminder to a patient. But when you think about completely transforming this industry to be the best in class at customer service, you can’t solve one piece of the problem. You need to think about the entire journey.
For hospitals, in particular, this also means integrating hundreds of vendors and electronic health records, and thousands of workflows to handle their patient preferences and communications. Overwhelmed yet? So are hospitals.
“It’s incredibly time-consuming to build and solve for great customer service, and that’s why it’s never going to be a hospital’s top priority. They need to solve cancer, they need to distribute vaccines. That’s why I started this company. There’s something very fulfilling about healthcare potentially being an industry that treats their customers better than anybody else,” de Zwirek said.
Considering how complicated and nuanced the patient care journey is, it’s important to have all communications unified and streamlined with zero friction. That is a platform-level investment—and that’s where WELL Health comes in.
WELL Health lets health systems and hospitals use two-way multilingual communication in a patient’s preferred channel, without making them download an app or log in to the portal. The company also helps healthcare systems streamline communication across the organization so patients can receive all healthcare communication in a single SMS/texting thread.
“Achieving good patient outcomes involves more than practicing great medicine. It also requires appropriate, timely and frictionless patient communication. When communication is inaccessible for any reason, albeit language, technology gap, one-way bot etc., the patient experience deteriorates, and patient health suffers. WELL is obsessed with creating a better patient communications experience, eliminating the friction that often keeps patients from good clinical outcomes and better relationships with their providers,” de Zwirek said.
Using a combination of SMS, IVR, and email, WELL Health provides the customization that healthcare demands for patient care while streamlining and standardizing communication across every single vendor in their ecosystem.
“Regardless of medium, we want the patient communication to be seamless, inclusive of both automated and staff communication. Virtually every interaction we manage with the patient is unique, and this requires a combination of real time data integration, customized message content and timing specific to each individual patient, and intelligent automated interactions, all purpose-built to support health care use cases,” CTO Thor Clark said.
Based on a patient’s preferences, this message can then be translated and sent out via the channel of their choice all while using technology to follow up on their journey so they don’t have to. WELL Health doesn’t just send out messages about upcoming appointments either. They can help healthcare systems send out communication around traffic delays, doctor absences, recommendations based on a previous appointment (get a mole looked at, follow up blood tests), and surveys following post-discharge.
WELL Health gives providers the flexibility to use pre-configured workflows and chatbots to configure specific messaging themselves. They also support more than 100 unique workflows that are largely automated with graceful handoffs to real office staff when appropriate.
“Our platform is built for large healthcare systems who require unification and control. We built a UI that allows them to configure all of the workflows, language, ML/AI components, and triage and routing rules themselves. They’re solving for more complex patient needs, in a streamlined and unified fashion instead of managing many disparate vendor communication configurations with sub-optimal patient outcomes. They can build on top of the unified WELL communications platform—and focus on being there for patients when they need their care. That isn’t just good business, that’s a great patient experience we can all be proud of,” Clark said.
During the pandemic, WELL Health’s digital agility helped healthcare providers communicate with patients about everyday care, as well as provide communications around COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“WELL Health’s hospital customers were able to immediately switch in-person appointments to virtual, cancel appointments in bulk when there were incidents of exposure, and communicate new standard operating procedures to patients (e.g., COVID symptom checks, mask guidelines, etc), all in real-time,” de Zwirek said.
Since the COVID vaccine became available in the United States, more than 150 leading healthcare systems have used WELL Health to facilitate more than 6 million COVID vaccine appointments and send more than 30 million COVID-related messages.
Similar to Twilio, WELL Health’s hospital customers can build on top of their platform to make aspects of their system more synchronized and provide better customer service to their patients outside of the hospital.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve seen Twilio grow as well. Twilio has advanced their capabilities in a way that has let us continue building on top of them to deliver real value for our clients,” Clark said.
As WELL Health has expanded, the company continues to rely heavily on Twilio’s deliverability and reliability for upcoming expansions both within the United States and internationally.
“Working with the whole Twilio team on a wide variety of our initiatives has helped us move forward and deliver better products and services to our customers. We also believe in Twilio’s scale and reach as we look to expand internationally and in other areas on a go-forward basis,” Clark said.
With the help of WELL Health, the future of healthcare customer service is limitless. The team believes they are just scratching the surface of how to apply this technology to genuinely improve people’s health by optimizing a patient journey before they even arrive at a facility.
“My dream is that we get to a place where our customers — hospitals and healthcare systems— are being named as the best companies in the nation, or even the world, for customer service,” de Zwirek said.
Working with the whole Twilio team on a wide variety of our initiatives has helped us move forward and deliver better products and services to our customers. We also believe in Twilio's scale and reach as we look to expand internationally and in other areas on a go-forward basis.