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Digital health concierge Docent raises $15 million

Internet Health Management
July 28, 2016 | By Peter Lucas

Hospitality is a not a word usually equated with hospitals, but investors are betting Docent Health can provide hospitals the technology and human resources needed to improve patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Docent, which was formed in 2015 with $2.1 million in seed money, provides web-based analytics software that evaluates a patient’s medical records to devise a plan for how Docent personnel can make a patient’s stay in a hospital as pleasant as possible. Staffers, which the company calls “docents,” interact with patients both in person and digitally by helping them navigate all of some of the steps of their hospital stay.

Docent just raised $15 million in new funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Maverick Ventures. The company will use the capital to refine its technology and increase the number of people it employs.

“Health systems and hospitals are realizing that great clinical outcomes are not enough to generate customer loyalty, they need to deliver a better customer experience,” says Docent CEO Paul Roscoe. “As consumers pay more for their healthcare through higher premiums, co-pays and deductibles, they expect a better patient experience that truly meets their needs and preferences for care, which is what we help hospitals deliver.”

Docent has contracted with three hospitals in California and the Northeast, including New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery, to service between 5,000 and 7,000 patients. Hospitals can purchase Docent’s technology for all patients or for select patient groups, such as oncology patients or expectant mothers. The latter option allows hospitals to ramp up and expand the service incrementally, Roscoe says. Hospitals can be up and running on Docent’s platform in about 5 months, a period that includes application customization and installation, Roscoe says.

Hospitals pay an annual fee based on the number of patients serviced through Docent. Pricing is typically based on the number of patient hospital visits or “journeys” managed through the Docent Health platform. For example, if a hospital contracts with Docent Health for 5,000 thousand annual patient journeys, Docent Health will provide a fixed price per patient journey that includes Docent’s technology platform and its on-site and remote Docent services.

Once the platform is installed, Docent creates a series of customer journeys that are continually refined as more patient data and feedback is gathered. Patient journeys can be segmented by such criteria as age. A 25-year-old, for instance, may prefer to interact with a Docent digitally via email or text, while a patient over 50 may prefer to interact face to face and through phone calls.

Docents act as a concierge for multiple patients, laying out a personalized plan for each prior to a scheduled hospital procedure or following up after a hospitalization. A patient scheduled for a colonoscopy, for example, will be contacted several days in advance of the procedure to go over preparation guidelines, such as fasting and drinking only clear liquids starting 12 hours prior to the procedure. The Docent will then follow up the day of the procedure to make sure those instructions have been followed. Other information gathered by the Docent may include the patient’s transportation needs, what their goals are after surgery and any concerns they may have. The ratio of patients assigned to each Docent varies by client.

“We try to capture not just information about a patient’s preferences, but their personal story so we can make their journey more comfortable and memorable,” says Roscoe. “The goal is to provide a patient experience that manifests into loyalty.”

Once a patient arrives at the hospital, she is met by the Docent who starts recording information about the patient’s experience so far and checks to make sure the patient has everything she needs. After a patient is discharged, a Docent will gather patient feedback, which is scored. If a patient provides a low satisfaction score, Docents are trained to ask questions to get at the root cause of the dissatisfaction. The answers are analyzed to identify trends among patient groups, such as long wait times for an MRI test. Hospital executives can use the information to correct issues that negatively impact patient satisfaction.

“Hospital’s barometer for patient sentiment is usually administering a survey well after the procedure or hospital stay,” Roscoe says. “We have staff that continually interacts with patients to create a satisfying end-to-end patient experience.”

Docent’s customer-centric approach should play well with consumers, who often get frustrated by breakdowns in communication and handoffs between hospital staff and physicians, says Kristin Baird, president and CEO of the Baird Group, a consulting firm specializing in customer service improvement and mystery shopping for healthcare organizations.

One potential area where health systems and hospitals can benefit from Docent’s technology and services is wayfinding—helping a patient navigate a hospital or medical campus to get to an appointment. Too often, Baird says, a patient arrives for a scheduled appointment in one building only to be told she is supposed to be in another.

“This type of communication breakdown is preventable and addressing it will help both the patient and the provider,” says Baird. “The patient benefits with a more seamless, stress-free experience and the provider benefits by having patients arrive on time and avoiding backlogs.”

Although hospitals can benefit from Docent’s services Baird nevertheless recommends healthcare providers take steps internally to better anticipate customers’ needs by improving processes for interacting with patients to avoid problems in the first place.