Less is more: How OhMD innovates the patient telehealth experience with Programmable Messaging

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If there’s one thing that both providers and patients want out of their healthcare experience, it’s more. More answers. More access. More clarity. More time to get to know one other. More options for communication. More human connection.

Instead, they find more paperwork, more patients that providers don’t know, more technology to forget your password on, more time spent on hold. More bills. More frustration. More burnout.

New technology can help, but instead often creates more work for the clinician and an even greater disconnect with patients. Further, even as new ‘patient-focused’ healthcare technology and telemedicine software emerges, very rarely is the patient consulted, resulting in a telehealth experience that is underutilized and overhyped.

At a time where we need to digitize human connection more than ever before, OhMD has created a platform that uses communication channels patients already understand as a digital front door so providers can get right to offering a more meaningful care experience—every single time.

Less is more

OhMD believes in the power of simple, easy SMS communication.

To their team, it’s about improving patient care by meeting patients where they already are. OhMD wants to enable physician practices and hospitals to deliver incredible patient experiences by focusing on simplicity. They do this by providing a simple programmable messaging and video service that allows providers to interact with their patients as well as internally.

“We obsess over the simplicity of the user experience. When we set out to solve a problem, we focus on the patient experience first, because if patients don’t use it, nothing else matters,” said Head of Development and Growth Greg Tavolacci.

“Physicians and care teams just want to keep patients healthy. Practice managers want to run an efficient practice and deliver great patient experiences. Simple, intuitive software is a requirement. With OhMD, we can set up practices in just days, instead of weeks or months.”

OhMD’s customers are the hospitals and practices that use their platform, but their first focus is always on the patient, leveraging technology the patient already knows, understands, and uses every day. From patient intake and appointment scheduling, all the way through the care journey to generating reviews and ratings for a practice, OhMD focuses on utilizing the technology that is already in the patient’s pocket.

“We allow brick and mortar practices and hospitals to deliver a much better patient experience through improved communication,” added CEO Ethan Bechtel. “Whether that’s through intake forms or video conferencing through text, we’re really just trying to reach patients through communication channels they already use. And then from there, fitting that into practice, front office, hospital call center, and ultimately physician workflows to deliver value on that side as well.”

Solving for human connection

We all know what it’s like to be a patient trying to reach our doctor for answers and spending more time speaking to a voicemail than a human being.

OhMD took the human experiences their team has felt and built technology around industry shortcomings.

“We made a very conscious decision when building OhMD to ask ourselves, ‘What does the patient want first? How do we solve for what the patient wants before we’re solving for what our customers want? Because, as we’ve seen, healthcare tends to do a, ‘If we build it, they will come’ type of thing, “ Bechtel said.

In solving for human connection, OhMD isn’t just focused on automation and conversion. They’re focused on changing the way the industry builds and cultivates relationships.

Wellness health video call

“Healthcare is personal,” Bechtel said. “We wanted to build for that, because that’s the problem we were trying to solve rather than automating communication. There’s a lot of value that can be derived from automation, but first, let’s build for the human element of healthcare.”

Building trust

OhMD started with SMS because they believed one of the biggest weaknesses in healthcare delivery is when a patient leaves the practice.

“It’s difficult to get someone on the phone. The patient portal isn’t adopted at scale. Email isn’t something often used in healthcare… So, we always wanted to focus on SMS as that initial point of contact and then build on that,” Bechtel said.

OhMD needed a partner to help create not only a stellar user experience via SMS, as well as build in logical workflow for all the different health practices that would be using their telehealth platform, but also take into consideration the human element of making the platform work.

“There’s a huge component of building trust between the patient and the provider that plays into it. Communication with your provider can be very difficult for many patients. When you have the opportunity to simplify that experience, it just goes a long way toward building that trust,” said Head of Marketing Devin Mason.

OhMD built their telehealth platform around that human element of trust and putting patients first, and they use Twilio technology to layer more value on top of that ideal. When the pandemic began in early 2020, they saw an opportunity to help patients and providers by integrating video into text conversations so both parties could feel safe.

“We began to see there were a lot of other things we could do once we addressed the human element. And because we had solved this longitudinal patient relationship through ongoing two-way conversation, video was a very logical next step,” Bechtel said.

With Twilio’s help, the OhMD team built their video telehealth platform in less than two weeks.

“Physicians were telling us they needed video to adapt to all the new COVID-related care scenarios. Video gave them flexibility to see patients no matter what,” Bechtel said.

A long-term relationship

While programmable SMS is OhMD’s bread and butter, video has also become a huge selling point because of the company’s commitment to keeping conversation simple and seamless between healthcare teams and their patients.

Patients receive a reminder text for their upcoming telemedicine appointment and then the provider sends a link day-of. From there, the patient can join a video call right from their text messages.

“That’s a pretty magical moment for patients and care providers alike, because they don’t have to really track each other down,” Tavolacci said.

One OhMD client found that two-way texting saved them about two hours of time each day that they otherwise would have used for patient phone calls. Another client saw check in times drop from 15 minutes per patient to just five by having patients check in from the parking lot when they arrived.

A third client found that shifting to two-way text has resulted in greater patient adoption, with a 52 percent increase in SMS engagement as well as a 45 percent increase in patients communicating via SMS in a three-month period. OhMD’s leadership expects to see similar results from other clients into the future.

OhMD has also been able to give both patients and providers more options over time. The telehealth service recently integrated group video conferencing and are looking at visit transcription services as a next step.

“It’s like you peel back the onion and Twilio has six more onions waiting for you behind that, and that’s partly what makes what we do fun and also what will continue to help us scale as we step into some of those new endeavors,” Tavolacci said.

Some of those new endeavors include helping in vaccine distribution efforts, where OhMD is integrating the OhMD telehealth platform into their unique vaccination processes to support vaccine scheduling.

“There are countless new opportunities we’re continuing to run into by just putting the human element of healthcare first,” Bechtel said.

Giving patients more

The OhMD team believes that by putting conversations and patient wants first, they’re creating autonomy that hasn’t traditionally been available in healthcare. It’s this simplified approach to the patient experience that differentiates them from their competitors.

“Being in control of the healthcare journey is something that people really want. Unfortunately, most people likely haven’t had this in their healthcare experiences. To be able to get answers to your questions, to have more control of when and where and how you’re receiving your care, is just changing the game. And there’s a whole lot of room to grow in that space,” Mason said.

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