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Lessons from the Digital Health Front Lines

Last week, Xealth’s Aaron Sheedy, COO, and Cynthia Church, chief strategy officer, had an insightful conversation with two health system clients, Jeff Johnson, vice president of innovation and digital business at Banner Health, and Leah Rosengaus, director of digital health at Stanford Health Care, about their organizations’ pursuit of digital health and the internal processes that enable it to succeed. 

Here are just a few of the highlights. 

Where do you start with digital health?

Banner is focused on making healthcare easier in order to make life better. Jeff sees digital playing a huge part in making care easier for patients, so the health system took an early look to determine how future programs and therapeutics can be rolled out system-wide in a way that is scalable, repeatable and simple for providers and patients. According to Jeff, Xealth’s digital health platform has been a key pillar in Banner Health’s digital health strategy and is helping it move more into value-based care.

Mothers are the heart of Banner’s patient base as they make many of the family care decisions. For that reason, the health system rolled out the Babyscripts app with the support of both providers and patients. 

Stanford Health Care turns to digital for improving care access and capacity. Even with >30% of ambulatory visits still virtual, the health system seeks to reduce the wait for scheduling appointments and extend specialty expertise across inpatient settings to meet rising demand. 

Leah offers this advice given for healthcare organizations looking to leverage digital health: digital transformation requires more than new technology – to generate value organizations must also evolve their care model, business model, and influence the regulatory landscape. Start with the clinical and business issues you are looking to solve and then seek the technical tools that will help you achieve your goals.  

Getting clinical and operational buy-in for digital strategies

One key observation – clinicians are interested in digital. When Jeff started at Banner, there were several different pilots around diabetes and no one knew about the other. To add structure and ensure organizational buy-in, the digital team partnered with clinical informatics and then surrounded that with a digital therapeutics governance council that includes physicians, educators, health plan representatives that look at ideas submitted, looking at options from a business standpoint – who will pay for it, who wants it, what is the clinical relevance, etc. 

To help gain clinical consensus, governance is tied into existing processes, and digital programs that make it through these steps are reviewed quarterly with the executive team to create alignment across the organization. 

At Stanford and other academic institutions, clinical practices often function with both horizontal and vertical governance, so it’s important to socialize digital projects to gain wide-spread support. Championship across teams is key to success, including the executive team, clinical and operational leadership, and stakeholders in patient experience, technology, regulatory and education. 

Clinical teams, including advanced practice providers and nurses also need to be part of the decision-making process as they are at the front lines doing a significant portion of the work. 

Expanding access for specialty care

Stanford aims to drive access the right level of care, at the right time, in the right place for each patient. Digital tools enable Stanford to  support more local care in community settings, and create capacity for complex specialty care at the academic medical center.   

Leah recommends expanding the digital front door to increase access for specialty care, including oncology. Many specialty care patients are self-referrals and network referrals. Communications coming directly from the health system have a significantly better response for tools like online second opinions – their experience is that over 20% of patients who pursue a second opinion then choose to transition care to the institution. 

The Xealth experience

When it comes to working with Xealth, our clients say it best: 

From Jeff: We chose Xealth to be a strategic partner, partly because of its thought leadership, and it’s been a great relationship on all fronts – our teams are connected both strategically and tactically. 

With Xealth, we are extending the value of the EHR to our patients, pulling digital resources through the EHR – downloadable apps, including Silvercloud and Babyscripts, automation of routine education like hypertension and diabetes management. Xealth also helps with Virta by sending a link only to people who qualify from a clinical need and whose health plan benefits cover it.

From Leah: We are particularly excited about the potential Xealth creates to better partner with employers and digital therapeutics. We believe a lack of connection between the health system and employer digital partners stunts adoption and exacerbates care silos. When integrated, messaging and support for patients can be targeted to their needs, reinforced by their trusted provider and incorporated into their care plan. 

Xealth has been a strategic partner in establishing that connection, particularly in niche areas like symptom management in oncology or MSK, etc. The EHR integration with a smaller, targeted solution is a big lift for our team and the vendor. Xealth reduces this effort and helps connect our external employer network. 

There’s a tremendous opportunity for Xealth to help health systems engage with the digital vendors employers are offering and integrating them.


We look forward to further discussions with our client partners as their experience on the front lines helps shape how we approach digital health. 

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