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WebMD, Artera Team Up to Improve Patient Education and Engagement Through Texting

WebMD Provider Services on Wednesday struck a partnership with patient communication company Artera (formerly WELL Health) to expand access to patient educational content and medication affordability programs.

WebMD Provider Services is a division of healthcare news publisher WebMD. The division provides patient education and engagement solutions for hospitals, health systems and other providers, said Ann Bilyew, senior vice president of WebMD Provider Services, in an interview.

Artera sells its patient communication software to hospitals, health systems and large physician networks. The company delivers “the technology that allows facilities to engage with their patients outside of the point of care in a streamlined, unified manner,” said Guillaume de Zwirek, Artera’s founder and CEO. Most of Artera’s patient communication strategy centers on text messages, so it doesn’t compete with patient portals, de Zwirek pointed out. He said his company is more focused on the last mile.

WebMD decided to partner with Artera because it believes the company can help it deploy its vast amount of content and information more efficiently, Bilyew said. WebMD has a trove of information that patients can use to make better decisions and advocate for themselves during their care journey, but it’s critical that this information reaches patients conveniently and at the right time, she pointed out.

“Partnering with a company like Artera enables us to put our content in the hands of patients, when it’s most convenient for them,” Bilyew declared. “And certainly a lot of our health system customers already use Artera. So it’s easy for us to help them leverage the investment they’re already making in Artera and the investment that they’re making in our patient education. We put those two things together to help them get the most out of it.”

Under this collaboration, patients will receive messages from their providers and they will have the ability to respond back. Sometimes the responses will be automated, and sometimes a person will write them, de Zwirek said. 

For example, if a patient is discharged from the hospital after a hip replacement, they could receive a text with physical therapy exercises to help them recover. Let’s say they received a list of exercises for their right hip, but it was the left one that they got replaced. The patient is able to respond to the text and ask for left hip exercises, and a member of the provider’s staff will quickly correct that error, according to de Zwirek.

And let’s say this patient realizes they won’t be able to make an upcoming physical therapy appointment. Under this collaboration, they can text their provider and a cancellation or rescheduling request automatically gets fulfilled because Artera is integrated with the EHR.

The partnership deploys text messages because SMS is a channel proven to produce high engagement levels, de Zwirek said. 

In fact, Artera conducted a study recently with a large hospital customer. It looked at 94,000 patients. For half of them, Artera honored patient preferences in the EHR, meaning it did not text them if they had opted out of text messaging. For the other half, the company ignored the patient preferences and texted anyway. The results showed that the vast majority of patients with “no texting” preferences in the EHR did not actually opt out once they received a text from their provider.

Both de Zwirek and Bilyew said they would like to get their joint customers on board with this partnership as soon as possible.

“I think it’s going to make such a difference for providers’ ability to continue a relationship with a patient. And it’s going to make such a difference for the patient in terms of giving them access to quality information and helping them stay adherent to the care plans that their providers and physicians put together for them,” Bilyew said.

Photo: Vladyslav Bobuskyi, Getty Images

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