How to Synchronize Patient Engagement with Modern Lifestyles
Episode 469

Chris Nicholson, CEO and Co-founder at mPulse Mobile

How to Synchronize Patient Engagement with Modern Lifestyles

Leveraging technology to improve engagement and provide wider access for different healthcare populations

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How to Synchronize Patient Engagement with Modern Lifestyles

Episode 469

Recommended Book:

Our Iceberg is Melting

Best Way to Contact Chris:

LinkedIn

Company Website:

mPulse

How to Synchronize Patient Engagement with Modern Lifestyles with Chris Nicholson, CEO and Co-founder at mPulse Mobile transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

How to Synchronize Patient Engagement with Modern Lifestyles with Chris Nicholson, CEO and Co-founder at mPulse Mobile was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2020.

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast, where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Today, I have the privilege of hosting Chris Nicholson. He’s the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of mpulse Mobile, the leader in Conversational AI Solutions for the Healthcare industry. It’s incredible work that Chris and his team does over there. They’re driving to improve health outcomes and business efficiencies by engaging individuals with tailored and meaningful dialogue. Chris has over two decades of health care and technology leadership experience from prominent Fortune 100 companies such as Humana and Verizons. Prior to joining Impulse, Chris spent over a decade in strategic leadership roles at Humana, most recently as a V.P. and a CEO of Wellness with responsibility for managing two hundred million plus P&L and integrating five acquired companies to build the second largest wellness company in the US. Previously, Chris led Humana’s Strategic Consultancy division and an enterprise shared services team focused on accelerated business transformation and cross-departmental collaboration. As a leader of product development and innovation teams, Chris developed patented communication solutions that received industry wide recognition and awards and more importantly, improved health care experience of millions of consumers. Today, it’s more important than ever in this increasing health care, consumer focused health life that we’re all living, that we do pay more attention and get better at these communications. And Chris has a ton of insights that we’re going to dive into today about the conversational A.I. and the innovations that they’re doing over there at mpulse Mobile. So with that introduction, I just want to welcome Chris to the podcast. Chris, pleasure to have you here.

Chris Nicholson:
Excellent Saul, really appreciate it. Thank you so much for the intro and sharing of the background. And then more importantly, I think thank you for creating a forum where leaders and teams can collaborate and share information with others. So thank you for doing that. First and foremost.

Saul Marquez:
Hey, I really appreciate that, Chris. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s been a lot of fun. And man, I’m so excited to dive into the wonderful work that you guys are doing. And so if I missed something about the company that maybe you want to highlight before we get into the content here, I’d love for you to do that just so that the listeners can get to know you and the company better.

Chris Nicholson:
Absolutely. No, thank you for that. I think the only additional comments I would add that, you know, really worth highlighting is you mentioned the focus on conversation AI you know the technology and really how we’re leveraging that in a way to improve engagement and really wider access for different health care populations. We’re servicing today members across segments and Medicare, Medicaid commercial, med supply, pharma, pop, health and wellness. A really wide array of companies in the sector focused on enterprise scale. And we are fully compliant, high trust certified, all of the wonderful things that we need to do to operate in health care setting. And we’re doing this at scale, which I think is most important as we talked about irrelevancy, is that will actually deliver over 200 million digital engagements in 2019. And so when you think about, you know, reach and access, we’re learning a lot through each of those interactions that makes our platform better, smarter and improves the engagement with our health plan and provider partners. So, yeah, thank you for that additional background. Be able ambition.

Saul Marquez:
Chris, that’s impressive. 200 million per year. And just at the core of these technologies, it takes data Right. and lots of it to get better. So I can’t imagine the improvements you guys are making every year.

Chris Nicholson:
Absolutely. Yeah. Got a lot of outcomes that I can share with you across the board. And I think first off is the platform does get smarter Right. through each interaction. That’s the beauty of A.I. is that every time we have a dialogue with an individual, we learn about the sentiment of that response. We learn about the preferences of the individual. You know, we’re using that across healthcare use cases such as driving our retail rate improvements for diabetes populations and had over 14 percent left there. We’re reducing unnecessary emergency room utilization by 5 percent, driving 21 percent improvement in HRA completions to interactive messaging. And so all of the data that comes in to the platform informs not only that particular conversation, but then builds a profile around that individual that says, I know how to communicate better with Sol the next time we have an interaction and then that creates wisdom within the platform and allows us to continue to improve as we go forward. Just like you and I would have a conversation, our dialogue is we’re going to take back and remember important notes about that and bring that back into future conversations as well.

Saul Marquez:
That is just brilliant. And it’s that type of precision care that I think a lot of people are looking for and getting access to that is key. So what is it that inspires your work in health care? Chris?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah. Great question. I thought about it a little bit on the inspiration side. Now I think it goes all the way back to when I was a kid. I’ve always been obsessed with communications technology. My father actually worked for a teleco, was at Cincinnati Bell Telephone and I remember just being so excited when my cordless phone came off, the cordless phone came out or videoconferencing or mobile phones. And and, you know, those are big innovations at the time. Right. And so then, you know, through my career, as I moved through, you know, health care and working companies like Humana and Horizon always connecting, you know, those two things back together that just said, there’s got to be a better way to communicate and engage this population. And technology becomes that enabling capability to do so. And so for me, the inspiration has always just come from, you know, and seeing people adopt and leverage technology for the better good. And so I’ve just been blessed, I think, in my career that I’ve been able to see a lot of successes where, you know, companies and partners that we worked with have been able to get benefits from that.

Saul Marquez:
That’s so great. And you’ve had a really interesting career, Chris. I mean, you’ve had senior roles and you’ve just done you’ve done such a great job. What would you say is one thing that held you back in the past that you’ve conquered?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of urban legends or myths around communications and engagement. A lot of people, you know, you heard that, you know, they tell themselves the story. Right. And then once you’ve told yourself that story, you believe it. And there are myths around that. You know what you can and can’t communicate over mobile, for example. So many people are following guidelines from when fax machines with a new technology 30 years ago around it, what you can send out over those communications modalities. And so we’ve spent the last several years really focused on just educating companies around the true guidelines, the regulations, how our population is engaging. There are a lot of myths that we’ve had to conquer around populations where people say, you know, low income members maybe in a Medicaid plan don’t have access to mobile. And the reality is that they actually engage over mobile at a rate 2 to 1 compared to other socioeconomic factors, or people say, you know, seniors over 65 don’t engage over mobile communications. And the reality is, 87 percent do. And so, you know, those are the types of things I think we just deal with a lot of. Those sort of urban legends that we need to illustrate through data and illustrate through outcomes what the successes actually are.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, it’s a good point, Chris. There’s a lot of assumptions.

Chris Nicholson:
I said that’s a good way to put it. The assumptions are right.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. And I was going to say is that there’s one thing that I always tell my teams is what are the first three letters of assumption? You’ve got to dig deep. And that data is critical. It’s critical. Yeah. And having the the experience and the success that you’ve had, Chris, I mean, you’re a great example of why everybody listening to this should question assumptions and and dig deep in your career. Who’s a mentor that’s made a big impact in your life? And what did they teach you?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah. Great question and appreciate the context. I think the person that stands out for me, I had the pleasure of meeting once for probably only about 20 minutes, but was John Potter, who is a Harvard professor and has written several books on leadership and change management and has been really, I think, a good guide as I’ve read a lot of his books as well. To me, I think one of the things that we all need to learn from is agility and really understanding change management regardless of what business you’re in. Personal life, professional life, etc. is the fact that things are going to continue to change. And the more resilient you are, the more agile you are about accepting and really understanding how that can be used to your advantage is key. And I think John Kotter, he wrote a simple book, which is a fable called Our Iceberg is Melting, and I require it as a read for all of my leaders because it’s talking about we need to really think about how change impacts us and what we can do to be really proactive and actually painful knowing that coming as well. So yeah, that’s one that I think I’ll love John Carter and the work that he’s done over the years.

Saul Marquez:
Man, that’s a great recommendation. Our iceberg is melting. Agility is key. It’s a great one to take away. Appreciate that, Chris.

Chris Nicholson:
You bet.

Saul Marquez:
So what do you believe is one of the biggest challenges in health care today?

Chris Nicholson:
You know, I hate to use sort of a common one, but it really comes down to cost to the consumer. You know, they continue to pay more and more each year, but the quality and access to services continues to be more limited and less effective.

And so, you know, I think the strategy that we all need to employ to improve the quality of care at a more efficient rate, we spend more per capita in the U.S. on health care than virtually any other country in the world. But our health outcomes actually aren’t comparably higher Right.. So you would think if we spent five times as much on health care that our outcomes would be five times better. But the reality is that actually an infant mortality rate, diabetes, weight issues, smoking, you know, cessation challenges like all of these things are actually at a much higher rate here in the US than other markets. And so, you know, we’re missing something. We’re spending more, but we’re still not getting the outcomes that we need to try.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. It’s interesting and I mean, and the question is why? Why is that happening and why and why do you think?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, I think that as I’ve been inside large health systems and, you know, large organizations, I think there’s so much legacy work that’s been built and it’s just so hard to move away from those. I think about movements and technology and a process that should eliminate a lot of that price escalation. And those are the intent of these different tools. You know, the billions of dollars are invested each year in integration work and just really trying to connect to these older legacy systems. Companies all signed up to put in a new HHR system, for example, and spend billions of dollars to do that. And so now, you know, the capital requirements to sort of move to new technology is just daunting. And then the lifespan of how long it takes to actually implement that is so long that people really lose sight of what the actual benefits are. And so it’s interesting to see some of these new health plans, the newer companies that are being created because they’re not carrying all that baggage that has to get done. And they seem to be moving much more quickly and getting the results that people are looking for. So it seems like a space where you almost have to sort of like wipe the board off and start from scratch to be able to be successful and drive the right outcomes.

Saul Marquez:
So, you know, you’ve obviously been working to increase that customer satisfaction. And I’m wondering what you think is what holds people back from overcoming this or businesses?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, I think the thing that holds people back is fear of failure. Honestly, you know, I can’t tell you how many people in my career that I have connected with that that really, I think feel and have the insight that what they’re about to do is the right thing. But they’re afraid from a career perspective or they’re afraid, you know, making a decision that may not be as effective as they believe and so they don’t do anything. Right. a great analogy is the people talk about there’s three types of people in this world, right? There’s the people that make things happen. Right. like yourself and hopefully myself. Right. As we as we get out there and we drive change, we try to make things happen. Then there’s the people that watch what happens. Right. Wonder they’re observing and sort of, you know, slightly participating. And then there’s the people that really don’t know what’s going on. They basically are the one that does what they wonder what happened, right. So to me, yeah, that’s the thing that, you know, is holding them back as people are just sort of putting themselves in those categories that just aren’t willing to step up and actually drive the change and see it through to completion. So I hate I hate to put it on ourselves, but it’s people.

Saul Marquez:
It is. Yeah. I love that. And so you guys are obviously doing a good job of helping folks overcome this challenge. Give us an example of how you and your company, Chris, have have worked with organizations to improve on this problem.

Thank you. I’ll give a couple examples of how we’re leveraging this conversation I capability, coupled with what we call natural language understanding and then the mix of talented people. Right. to help develop strategies and behavioral workflows to build communications. Right.. And so it’s the science behind the communication, the drive that. And so a couple of examples. You know, I mentioned a little bit, which is in, you know, diabetes management, for example, or resoled rates is, you know, we’re helping large partners like Kaiser Permanente, a human and others work on diabetes prevention programs for medication here. And then those refill rates, because we’re leveraging those two way interactive conversations, we’ve driven over a 14 percentage point lift and improvement there. Thank you. And you know, things like HRA completions, which is very significant for Medicaid, a Medicare population. I’m getting members to take that survey so that the health plan can actually capture data back about a particular individual, learn about, you know, health beliefs, to learn about health conditions that they may have. And it’s really a tough thing because they were sending letters that people would fill in by hand trying to do outbound by phone calls. We actually shifted over to a digital modalities. Values do that over a secure messaging interaction with our activate intelligence products. And we got a 21 percent lift in age Right. completions, which is a significant revenue driver for those health plans. We’ve also helped focus on the operational side with a tool we call the engagement console that allows for customer service agents to interact directly and have one to one conversations with an individual driving about a 14 percentage point improvement in operations costs. And the subtleties I’ll sort of break down for you in that from a tech perspective is if I’m having a dialogue with you over estimates, for example, and the older responses, can you will you make your appointment? You know, yes or no? And you know, text 1 for Yassar, 2 for now. But what we learned over time was that individuals actually respond in a wide array of topics. So they may say, I’m God, I’m running 20 minutes late, my dog got out or my car broke down or, you know, I can’t afford a cab to get there today. And so we learn all these things from a social determinants of health perspective about a simple question, which is, hey, can you make your appointment right. And so those are data points that we bring back into the platform to learn and to grow on the medications here inside. Imagine, you know, somebody says, yes, I took the medication, but I feel depressed. All right. So it’s more than just the. Yes. You have to really understand the context and the relevancy of the conversation and not be so machine based. And those responses. And so that’s what we’ve tried to do is really add the human element to the conversation, you know, outside of just the technology itself. And that’s what we’re seeing drive such wonderful outcomes and lift in these particular programs.

Saul Marquez:
That’s really interesting. And so with the messaging that you guys sent out send out, it’s not just binary, yes or no. Do you leave it a little more open ended to try to get more background?

Chris Nicholson:
Absolutely. Yeah. And because that’s what we learn. That’s so much what I call between the lines. Right. In the context of the conversation. And so we’ll try to sort of guide the dialogue Right. or the conversation. But where somebody comes back and they may ask an open ended question or have an open ended response and really tell you a lot about the plan. You know, we’re helping people to, you know, her medication hearings to get to pick up their prescriptions from a Kaiser or, you know, facility like CBS or someone like that. And what people are doing is they’re telling you, you know, that they don’t have transportation or they can’t afford the medication. And then we’re able to respond back through the platform in an automated fashion that says, well, did you know there’s lower cost alternatives available? You know, you should speak with a clinician about any side effects, like all those are happening in real time over the conversation. We even accept things like emojis that they respond back with a thumbs up or, you know, they say like or sure. Or whatever the context may be, even profanity. You know, it’s funny, about 14 percent of people for different programs actually will respond with profanity. But it’s not a bad thing. It’s just the vernacular of how they’re communicating.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah.

Chris Nicholson:
They may say, hell, yes, they’re for. Right. And so but we just need to communicate on the level that consumers are engaging today.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. Now that’s that’s brilliant. And being open minded about using conversational AI understanding that there’s partners like Chris’s company to be able to make a difference in what everybody’s doing today is is is inspiring. So if you had to summarize your solution to the listener, maybe it’s a three step plan. What is that solution?

Chris Nicholson:
Oh, great question. I would probably frame it as three layers. Right. For the three step plan would be communicate, engage and activate. And by that I mean communicating by developing a strategy. What we actually need to engage in, two further engage layer is actually building a two way interactive dialogue. And then lastly, activating, which is getting the consumer to do the desired behavior. Right. You know, not by, you know, forcing them or, you know, but more steering them and providing appropriate guidance. And so it sort of steps up from the core communication layer to creating to a interactive engagement to then, you know, what is the activation strategy or the desired outcome you’re trying to get to? And so I think building those three things, if you can do that with any particular program, I think you’re going to have pretty good success.

Saul Marquez:
Chris. And brilliant. And so obviously, to every, you know, plan, there’s also pitfalls. What what would you say is the most common pitfall that listeners should be careful to avoid?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, I would come back to your comment earlier about assumptions Sumption about segments I think is really critical. We know that the data actually supports a wider view. But again, the pitfall is leveraging maybe what we learned 5 years, 6 years, 8 years ago, and we don’t have to be open and listen and really listen and look at the data that we’re getting on a daily basis.

Saul Marquez:
So what action would you want to make the listeners take today? I mean, what what would you say you have? Do this.

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, I would shift to a topic around preferences. I don’t think we spend enough time and I think although the listeners on the podcast could benefit from a focus around consumer preferences, and by that I mean what is a desired channel that the consumer wants to be communicated in? What language do they want to be communicated that you know, and often should we be engaging? What topics are they interested in? And there’s really great ways to ask those questions and learn and then be able to shape the dialogue in the conversation. But so often we we sort of make assumptions broadly that these are things they’re interested in because of their age or their segment or, you know, where their zip code is or something like that. But I think the call to action to me would be listen and ask for. He simply stated,.

Saul Marquez:
I love that that’s, it’s a great call out. And we do assume all the time and I think just taken a moment to pause and think about what those pitfalls could be will really help us shape that. And maybe you could highlight a couple of those those pitfalls. Chris, I mean, what could happen? I mean, if people don’t take the time to listen then and do as you as you’re suggesting.

Chris Nicholson:
I think they just waste a lot of money. Right. And what we’ve seen, you know, in the partners that we’ve worked with and helping them shift is that, you know, billions of dollars are spent each year just on outbound letters or outbound statements or things that are sent or communicated to members. And so I think that redirecting, you know, those dollars to things that are more effective again, by asking those questions and listening and learning becomes really relevant. And that’s going to be the area that I think it’s not spending on top of existing budgets. We’re really just redirecting things to what consumers are looking for today.

Saul Marquez:
Chris, I had such a great point. And I think everybody listening today does not want to waste a bunch of money.

Chris Nicholson:
So we can’t. Right. We need to be efficient. We need to grow our businesses and we need to help each other all make good decisions right now.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. And so, you know, as you think about the things that people could gain from a program like this, what’s the biggest thing that is most promising?

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, I think the learning aspect of understanding who your consumer population is, the fact of leveraging these vesting channel digital is all real time. Right. So you have the ability to get feedback immediately about a program, about a product, you know, about a service that you’re providing. Then we need to really take advantage of that Right.. And so, you know, people today are very much vocal and social and other channels. We need to make sure that we’re really supporting them across the board. And so, you know, I think, you know, leveraging that real time information, reducing friction for consumers is will really help us maximize the outcomes of all trying to drive.

Saul Marquez:
Love that, some great recommendations here. Chris, what what would you say is the best book that you’d recommend to listeners?

Chris Nicholson:
I’m going to come back to John Kotter again. Because I did I’m going to do a little bit of a promotion for him and support our iceberg is melting. And I’ll give you just that. The teaser in there is that the primary characters in the book are penguins. And so iceberg penguins. I’ll let you kind of build your own story, visit on your head. But hopefully that will be intriguing enough to get some listeners to take a peek.

Saul Marquez:
That is interesting. I love it. Great recommendation. I’ll definitely be picking it up a jot down the book the first time. But, you know, I’m definitely picking it up now. But what you say is an Internet resource that you’d recommend to the listeners like Evernote or something like that.

Chris Nicholson:
Yeah, one that I’ve actually really enjoyed is SlideShare dot net. If you’ve ever used that before. No. Five years. SPEIGEL It’s because it’s sort of an open source where individuals thought leaders, professors, teachers can post presentations. And so it’s all PowerPoint slides effectively on different topics. And so you can say, I’m curious how blackholes work and you literally type it in black holes in SlideShare.net and you can get resources on that if you said the right word or about conversation A.I. and there’s people that are presentations on conversation. So it’s yeah, it’s it’s a wonderful resource where people just say, hey, I put something together. I was proud of it and I posted it. A lot of conferences and events or post content after sessions and put it inside shared out. So it’s a great resource to search presentations by topics and get some insights from others.

Saul Marquez:
How do you do you have any of your stuff up there?

Chris Nicholson:
Just a few. I need to do a better job of both. We’d have just a few. Yeah. Nice. Nice. That’s a good resource. Did not know about it. Folks, if you didn’t know about it. SlideShare.net. For your next research project. So you’re not assuming you’re here doing your research. It’s a great, great resource. Chris, this has been a ton of fun. I love if you could just share a closing thought. And the best place for the listeners could continue the conversation.

Chris Nicholson:
Excellent. I’m going to come back to the comments around. Communicate, engage and activate, you know, leverage that three step plan for how to engage your population and how to drive the outcomes that you’re looking for. And then lastly, just want to say thank you again for hosting such a wonderful forum to bring leaders together and share insights. So thanks so much for that Saul.

Saul Marquez:
Hey, it’s a pleasure, Chris. And again, just really want to thank you for that. And where can the listeners continue the conversation with you? Can they check out your Web site? Email you? What’s the best way to do that?

Chris Nicholson:
Absolutely. All of the above. So I’m easy to find on LinkedIn as well. Or you can go to wwww.mpulsemobile.com and that’s just the letter M P U L S E M O B I L E.com. So feel free to swing by and check out capability.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Chris, thanks so much again for sharing your insights here on conversational AI and how we can improve outcomes at that. Really appreciate your time.

Chris Nicholson:
Sounds great. Wonderful. Thank you for hosting and setting it up. Appreciate it.

Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast.Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration and so much more.

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