Omada Health uses digital smarts to ease the fight against chronic disease

Michelle Swan Profile picture for user Michelle Swan April 23, 2019
How digital healthcare provider Omada Health uses behavioral science, connected technology and customer service in the fight against chronic disease

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Chronic disease has become a serious burden. Not just for the millions of people who live with these illnesses but also for the employers, governments and taxpayers who often bear the cost of these long-term conditions.  Omada Health is looking to alleviate this burden through a combination of technology, design, data science and a personalized user experience.

According to the CDC, 90% of the U.S.’s $3.3 trillion in annual health care expenditures already goes toward people with chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease or mental illness, and that number is poised to increase as the population ages. Ironically, many of these diseases could be reduced or prevented altogether through simple lifestyle changes.

Omada Health, a digital healthcare company based in San Francisco, thinks it has the answer. The company works with employers, health plans and individual participants to deliver programs that help people create healthy habits that stick. Omada’s programs apply a combination of behavioral science research, and data collected through connected devices, virtual coaching and social support groups, all delivered using Omada’s web platform and mobile app.

The digital interactions that take place through Omada’s platform ultimately create thousands of data points for each participant which Omada and its coaches can use to modify programs and create better results for its customers. The company bills this experience as “personalized support inspired by science to transform health.”

Omada sees this connected personalized experience as part of its secret sauce, a way to create a trusted relationship with its participants from the moment they receive their welcome package with their connected device already registered to their account, to the ongoing coaching they receive, to the service they get when calling in with a question. Omada believes making every interaction as easy as possible will create better, more lasting results for its participants

A better customer experience

Customer service is one of these important touchpoints in the customer journey. When Bill Dougherty, VP of IT and Security, started at the company two and a half years ago, Omada had a rudimentary customer support system that wasn’t able to keep pace with the company’s growth. Issues such as poor voice integration, limited reporting and an inability to integrate with Omada’s platform were hampering Omada’s ability to provide that seamless customer experience.

We serve a lot of constituents – large employers, health plans, the people actually in the program and our internal people. There are a whole myriad of reasons why someone might contact us. We have five different support desks, which connect out to 14 or 15 other groups.

Dougherty brought in Zendesk to replace its aging support system to serve all five support groups, and has integrated the system across these different touchpoints to eliminate as much friction as possible. These investments have helped improve the customer experience in a number of ways, and has helped the company to scale.

Faster resolution of customer issues

Because the customer support team can instantly identify customers who are calling in, and pull up the relevant data, Omada reps can get focused on resolving issues much faster than before.

Now when somebody calls in Zendesk already knows who all the John Smiths are and what numbers they have so we know who is calling. The system will surface the right information to the support agent so they can start asking verifying questions within seconds.

We’ve gone from 2 minutes per ticket to seconds, which has saved more than a full-time employee’s worth of time. That alone paid for the tool.

Reduced customer handoffs

When you’re talking about creating a trusted relationship and inspiring lasting change, interactions need to be smooth. Zendesk’s APIs and integration with Omada’s own platform now allows coaches to escalate support questions so participants don’t need to make a separate call if they need something.

The new system coordinates responses across five different support desks, with the ability to securely communicate across a dozen or so other groups. Reps can escalate issues to groups like the medical affairs team if somebody has a clinical escalation, or the security team if someone has a security question, creating fewer handoffs and better service in the process.

Quality assurance as the business scales

The new system has helped Omada’s support team standardize responses, which has been a boon when taking on new people, says Dougherty. .

We’ve become a very heavy user of macros in Zendesk, which are predefined responses for common questions or issues. We were at a 92% hit rate for using macros. That kind of standardization is key, as it ensures agent quality across the whole population.

When you’re growing and hiring people fast -- which we are, I think we’ve hired a dozen support agents in the last 3 months -- it cuts down on training time and vastly improves quality.

Trust and privacy of sensitive information

Given Omada is dealing with people’s sensitive health information, the company takes security very seriously. It claims to be the first digital diabetes prevention program to get SOC2 certified, and is very conscious of the stringent data privacy requirements of healthcare as it integrates data and communications in its business systems. As Dougherty explains: .

When we put together our RFP for customer support, we looked for a company that understood what it was like to work with healthcare and was willing to sign a BAA, which is mandated by HIPAA. Not every company will do that.

Better reporting and a focus on customer satisfaction

The investments that Omada is making in customer service have also given the business far better reporting, which it is using to continuously improve. Omada’s clinical and data science teams are always looking at what works and doesn’t in their prevention programs, and according to Dougherty, that same focus on data and continuous improvement extends to customer support.

At the end of every participant support ticket we send out a customer satisfaction survey. Every negative response we get is reviewed by a service manager who is always looking at ways to improve our protocols. Do we need more training for the agent? Do we need to improve our pre-canned responses or is it something outside of our control?

That’s important because the company’s revenue depends on satisfied customers:.

If an employer hires us, our revenue is directly tied to their population having good outcomes. It means we have skin in the game.

My take

As anyone who has ever smoked, drank or tried to diet can attest, changing habits is hard. Anytime you can smooth the road for a tough journey, the easier that journey becomes. Omada’s data-driven approach, wrapped in a great user experience, might just make a dent in the costs and burden of chronic disease.

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