An IT Leader Shares How Stanford Health Care is Transforming Patients’ Digital Experience

Nov. 29, 2017
Aditya Bhasin, vice president of software design and development, digital solutions, at Stanford Health Care, discusses Stanford’s work to transform patients’ digital experience, which has led to increased patient satisfaction and operational efficiencies.

For the past few years, Aditya Bhasin has been leading Stanford Health Care’s digital transformation with a specific focus on evolving the patient’s digital experience. As vice president of software design and development, digital solutions, at Stanford Health Care, Bhasin is part of the IT leadership team at the health system, and he has been driving strategy for Stanford’s digital technologies related to web and mobile, as well as design and development of the organization’s digital health platform.

As part of this digital transformation, Bhasin and his digital team rolled out a new, in-house designed and developed Stanford Health Care MyHealth app back in January 2015. The digital team also launched a custom patient portal which connects each patient with his or her care team and delivers personalized information. The team continues to add new digital features and functionalities, with a focus on creating a seamless, fully integrated digital experience for patients. Through the MyHealth app, patients can make appointments, manage prescriptions, view health summaries, access and pay bills, share vital signs with doctors via integration with Apple’s HealthKit and conduct telehealth video visits with physicians. The mobile app engages patients prior to their arrival, offering an eCheck-in feature, and that engagement continues all the way through post-appointment.

What’s more, Stanford Health Care worked with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, to integrate Aruba’s Meridian IoT beacon technology to enable in-building location awareness for an advanced wayfinding feature. When a patient walks into a clinic, the MyHealth app offers step-by-step directions to the doctor’s office, and then notifies the care team when the patient arrives. That project has been rolled out in several phases, with plans to deploy in the main hospital building this quarter. To date, the digital offerings are not only improving patient satisfaction, but also increasing operational efficiency and productivity.

Stanford Health Care is Bhasin’s first foray into healthcare as he previously held leadership roles at several Silicon Valley startups. He led software for Jawbone, a consumer technology and wearable products company. He has worked in telecom and Software as a Solutions industries, including leading multiple teams at OpenWave, which develops mobile messaging software solutions.

Bhasin recently spoke with Healthcare Informatics Associate Editor Heather Landi about Stanford’s work to transform patients’ digital experience, as well as the challenges, and opportunities, of designing and developing digital patient engagement solutions.

Coming into healthcare from other industries, what was your take on the healthcare industry’s use of digital solutions for patient engagement?

When I was looking at the different verticals, I felt that academia and healthcare had the most opportunity in terms of using digital solutions to transform the industry, and I think that was one of the things that attracted me to this vertical. In different industries, it’s about consumerism, and you can bring those ideas about creating consumer digital experiences into healthcare and reduce friction. How do you apply those principles, which are more about exciting you and driving adoption, and apply them here in an environment you’re trying to provide value at the point of care? It’s an industry that can definitely do very well bringing those notions into it.

What has been your strategy to transform patients’ digital experience at Stanford Health Care?

We wanted to bring patients’ digital experience into line with the leading-edge care they already value and trust. The goal was to create a premium experience consistent with the Stanford brand across all of our patients’ interactions with the health system. We transformed our external web experience on our main website,, and we went for a user-centric design and focused on how to make it easier for people to find the content they are looking for. There is a general tendency in healthcare to actually put all the complexity of your organization onto the site. Then we transformed the patient portal and then built up the infrastructure to expand the digital experience with our mobile apps.

With regard to the wayfinding feature, we integrated that experience into the MyHealth app. We didn’t want to build a stand-alone app; when you’re coming into a healthcare facility and you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is scan a QR code and download an app. to build out a standalone app, when you’re coming to healthcare organization, looking for, wayfinding, the last thing you’re doing when you’re coming in duress, scanning a QR code and downloading the app. For the patient, the journey starts the day prior when the patient gets a push notification that reminding them of an upcoming appointment and offering the option of eCheck-in. When patients use the eCheck-in feature, they can avoid standing in line. It helps us get operational efficiencies and provides patients with the best possible experience.

The engagement continues post appointment, and one of the key features that we just rolled out in January is patient education. If a patient has an elective surgery scheduled, it automatically triggers push notifications in the app about education related to the procedure or information about how to prep the area involved in the surgery.

Moving forward, what is going to be your focus?

One of the things we’ve been doing is that we’ve tried to keep everything into one consistent entry point. One of the big challenges that we’ve seen is that you create a plethora of applications and then create a fragmented experience for your end user. It’s tough for an organization to maintain a lot of these solutions and be focused on digital entry points to the website and MyHealth, and continue to offer the features and functionalities around that particular area. We’re working on taking the same experience and taking that to the patient clinics. I think that’s the area of focus where you’ll see us go deeper in. It’s all about the continuum of care; whether a patient is an outpatient or a patient is having a transactional touchpoint with us, or it’s a complex care patients who is in the hospital. The roadmap continues, and there is a lot of interest on what we are working on.

MyHealth app

What are the biggest challenges in designing and developing digital patient engagement solutions?

I think these are large complex organizations, and coming from the outside you just think, why don’t these things automatically happen? I think one challenge is getting all the different groups within the organization oriented and making sure that when you create a solution, that it is very deeply embedded with the operational workflows that are already established and keeping the solution up to date as those operational workflows change behind the scenes. The same solution has to tap into legacy systems, which already exist, and that’s always a challenge, as well as keeping up with the backend systems, which also are changing. The success of our initiative has been our focus on providing a great patient-facing experience and keeping it in sync with the operational workflow; that handoff has to be seamless between what we are showing the patient and what’s happening behind the scenes in the organization. Those have been some of the unique challenges.

What have been some of the lessons learned in this process, and what recommendations do you have for other IT leaders at healthcare provider organizations?

I think it takes a level of commitment. I think many organizations really don’t envision that level of commitment just because of how things have been done traditionally with this notion of organizations just buying solutions and deploying them. It’s a unique mindset for folks to think about this as a living, breathing organization. Digital solutions have to be continuously tweaked and evolved as your needs change. It’s not a one-time project. It’s a DevOps shop. And you can look at our consumer experiences, whether it’s with Airbnb or with Uber or Lyft—your end user experiences are changing all the time. So, I think that is one of the unique things that organizations need to appreciate. This needs to be an investment and an ongoing investment that must be built, maintained and sustained. As newer technologies and newer needs come up, then new solutions and how you engage with your patients must continue to evolve as well.

Also, many organizations keep relying on vendors to provide solutions; waiting for disruptions from people like Amazon. Amazon doesn’t buy their digital solutions, they develop their solutions themselves. And, similarly, while there is absolutely a need for vendor solutions as you’re not going to invent everything all the time, but if you really want to do things differently, I think at least having a custom development shop to develop unique solutions to create the unique experiences for which you stand for is, I think, where you need to focus.