Podcast #84

Patient Prism: Revolutionizing Healthcare Through AI and Innovation, with Amol Nirgudkar

Episode Highlights:

Amol Nirgudkar: “Patient Prism was started with the idea that we need to make conversations better in dentistry, now broader healthcare. The problem that we were trying to solve was very simple; new patients, new customers were calling these dental offices, at the time, and only about half of them were actually scheduling appointment. The reason for that was unknown, for many reasons.”

Episode Overview

In the field of dentistry, as well as in the broader healthcare industry, providers encounter a common issue: a significant number of new patients or customers would call, but only about half of them would actually go ahead and schedule an appointment. This problem prompted Amol Nirgudkar, founder and CEO of Patient Prism, to develop a solution. Patient Prism is an AI platform designed to enhance patient interactions and customer service in the healthcare field. On this episode of Ignite, Amol joins Cardinal CEO, Alex Membrillo, for a conversation about the pivotal role automation technology plays in easing clinicians’ workloads and increasing patient access to care.


Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to The Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex: This is going to be a really cool episode, guys. We have Amol here in the nest. We’re actually doing in-persons, so if you’re watching the video, it’s not going to be the awkward Zoom stuff. We got Amol, the CEO, founder [unintelligible 00:00:33] and leader of the Patient Prism, in the nest. He actually happens to live five doors down, we found out a couple of months ago. Very cool. I not only have the leader of one of the best technologies out there for the healthcare industry, but I also have a neighbor. Good morning, neighborino?

Amol: Good morning, sir. In this crazy day of Zoom and everything else we do, it’s nice to find somebody that you work with closely, that actually happens to live next to you, and you can shake hands with them.

Alex: Yes, shake hands and tell me when the garage is open.

Amol: When the garage is open, the garage is closed, grass is not mowed, whatever that is, like, “Yes, your grass is not mowed. It’s too high”

Alex: Amol is also the HOA leader of Lynwood in Brookhaven, Georgia. Amol, tell them, what is Patient Prism? How do you position it? Then we’ll get into how it’s differentiated. Just start with what’s Patient Prism. Why should we care?

Amol: Patient Prism was started with the idea that we need to make conversations better in dentistry, now broader healthcare. The problem that we were trying to solve was very simple; new patients, new customers were calling these dental offices, at the time, and only about half of them were actually scheduling appointment. The reason for that was unknown, for many reasons.

We thought it was the person at the front answering the phone, and that was part of the reason. When we realized, about seven years ago, that after listening to these calls, that there was multiple reasons why patients didn’t schedule an appointment– Some of it was training with different staff. Some of it was other reasons like operations, capacity, and all that. We asked a simple question, that, “Hey, could we train Alexa how to understand dentistry?” That was a very simple question from my brain, at the time was not a tech brain.

Lo and behold, a year later, we had a product that literally used machine learning and natural language processing to understand why the patient didn’t book an appointment. We wanted to understand what happened, why did it happen, what was the value of that opportunity, and could we recover it in a record amount of time, by delivering that intelligence to the dental office, that, “Hey, come on back in, sir. You called in earlier at nine o’clock and we told you 10,000 for those two implants. Guess what, we didn’t give you financing options. We got financing available. It can be 299 a month. Come on back in.”

All of a sudden, we saw patients starting to come back, and that was where the magic started. It was the utilization of AI to have a second chance to make the first impression.

Alex: How long ago did you start Patient Prism?

Amol: We started before AI was a buzzword.

Alex: Yes, and now it’s a buzzword. How many years ago?

Amol: Eight years ago.

Alex: Eight years ago. Now AI is a big thing. We usually don’t jump into insights and trends until later on, but let’s go into it. How are you guys using it? What is it doing differently or better, or making more efficient, or insights better? Tell us anything really cool you’ve been into.

Amol: The first thing you want to understand is– Let me go back to the basics. Marketing is driving leads into the funnel. You’re spending money, and you’re trying to get new patients of the right kind. The first thing you want to do, if you’re in any of healthcare verticals, or anywhere in business, you want to pick up the phone. The first thing it realizes is that, hey, how many times are you not picking up the phone during business hours? That’s simple to do. That doesn’t require AI.

Then what happens is, you have to understand, from an analytic standpoint, who is calling, what do they want? Is it a new patient? Is it an existing patient? Is it somebody not even related to a patient? Understanding that. Then when you understand those metrics, then you want to understand, are they scheduling an appointment or not. Okay, that’s great. You understood that metric. Now you go deeper. If they didn’t schedule, why not?

That’s what I call micro metrics. You want to understand what is preventing the patient from moving forward in their journey to achieve their optimal health. The reasons that we pick up, through machine learning, are capacity, pricing, insurance, money, affordability, service not available.

Alex: Agent quality.

Amol: Agent quality, absolutely, yes. Believe it or not, agent quality is about 30%.

Alex: If we have the right scripts, and the right information, and the right capacity, they’re booking.

Amol: Yes. The agent quality actually only accounts for 30% of non-booked appointments. Pricing has to do also with training of the agent, not this. If somebody thinks they cannot afford something, it basically means that they don’t value it enough. They don’t think it’s valued enough. Somebody would spend $4,000 on a Gucci shoe, but they would not spend $1,200 on a crown, right?

Alex: I value Ferraris pretty highly.

Amol: That’s right. [crosstalk].

Alex: [unintelligible 00:05:11] value.

Amol: Basically, what Patient Prism does, it digs deeper into why, because then you can solve what’s really broken. It’s really simple, and it does it very quickly. The key in AI is knowing what happened, when did it happen, and then being able to deliver insight to the dental practice or the healthcare practice. We deliver it within 45 seconds, so that, “Oh my God, I just realized, a minute ago, I lost a lead with 10,000. We didn’t offer them financing, and we didn’t offer them an appointment.”

Alex: That comes through your platform. It’s not somebody listening and saying that that all happened. That is being triggered. Patient Prism dashboard pops up, says, “This call didn’t get scheduled. This was the reason. Someone call them back.”

Amol: Not even the Patient Prism dashboard, you can get it as a text message.

Alex: Oh, wow.

Amol: You can get a text. The office manager, the call center manager, can get a text, like, “Hey.” The text gives them a summary of what went wrong, what the agent did, what the agent did not do, what they could do when they call them back. This is like literally pulling somebody who we just missed, a great lead, we just didn’t appoint them, and then let’s bring them back. That’s what it is.

Alex: It seems simple. Probably not as easy to deploy. You mentioned now wider healthcare. You are known for dental. What are the next evolutions? We’ll talk about the next services for Patient Prism or the next product iteration GA4, et cetera. Wider healthcare, what did you think about that? Why are we branching out of dental?

Amol: What I realized, a lot of people from all different verticals in the healthcare industry, like, “Amol, why don’t you have this in dental? Why don’t you have this in audiology? Why don’t you have this in veterinary? Why don’t you have this in optometry?” They’re like, “We’re having the same exact problems. We’re driving leads in. We’re not scheduling them, and we have no idea.” Most people have this gut, like, “Oh, yes, we’re not doing it because Mary on the phone.” That’s just a gut reaction. It could be your marketing is not driving the right leads in the funnel.

No matter how many leads are coming in, you’re not scheduling them because Mary, or John, or whoever’s answering the phone, can’t schedule them because they’re the wrong leads. You don’t take Medicaid, and you’re driving all these Medicaid leads in, no matter what you do, it’s not the fault of the person answering the phone. There is a lot of things that we diagnose at the very beginning of the process. In all of healthcare, there’s no accountability in marketing.

I’m sure you know, you run an amazing shop here. There’s no accountability. People have no idea. Everybody is just fed these metrics, “Boy, I got you so many conversions.” What does that even mean?

Alex: How many became patients? We don’t know.

Amol: How much money? Show me the money. Nobody’s doing that.

Alex: Nobody’s doing that. We’ve been harping on that for years. We’ve got to get to the business result, and that’s booked patients and revenue that come from it.

Amol: That’s what a lot of these verticals came to me, and say, “Amol, we would love to have this.” Even an OBGYN office help, we have 50 new pregnant patients calling us every month. We have no idea whether we’re scheduling them or not. The value of each pregnant patient is $10,000 per patient during the course of their pregnancy, and if we lose them, it’s $10,000.

Alex: Does Patient Prism allow you to see by location or city, reasons people are booking? Maybe they don’t accept that, and that we need to take that off landing pages. We need to say no Medicaid in the ad copy of the PPC. Is it telling you by location?

Amol: It’s telling you by location, by keyword.

Alex: By location, by scheduling, by keyword.

Amol: By everything.

Alex: Do you have integrations into Google Analytics, all that stuff, so they can track all the way through? Tell us about that. That’s something I know you’re excited about telling us [unintelligible 00:08:46].

Amol: We launched AdWords and Analytics integrations on top of the AI we built. We wanted to make sure that what we were sending to Google, whether it’s analytics, or AdWords, was very accurate in terms of conversions. The AI knows that this patient called, they booked an appointment, they wanted an appointment for Invisalign, for example. That specific conversion can now be written back specifically into the conversion bucket called Invisalign, website calls for mobile collector calls, within ads, or within your goals that are specifically for Invisalign.

Now, you don’t have this broad-based conversion metric of, like, “Okay, here’s all the conversions from Patient Prism.” Now, you’re exactly telling your customer, that, “Hey, I am the marketing agency, I have driven nine new Invisalign patients, booked appointments, and we have only spent $1,000 on this. I have a much better understanding of my customer acquisition cost than I’ve ever had before.” Otherwise, doing it yourself, people at marketing, they’re like, “Oh, I got $30 cost per lead.” Really? What’s the denominator?

Alex: Cost per lead is almost like a vanity leading metric to me, at this point. What’s the cost per booking? How many bookings are becoming patient? What’s the cost per patient? It’s hard to get groups there, but the right technology helps you. On the flip side, knowing those, enables you to spend more. If you want to grow your practice, you need to know what it costs to drive a patient, and then you’ll dump more money into it.

Amol: 100%. The thing that you guys have done at Cardinal is figured out the machine. Figured out how many dollars we need to put here to get a multiple of that dollars over there. That’s what we need to expect from marketing of the future, is accountability. Like, “Okay, if I put $1 here, it’s going to spit out $7 over here. What we want to do, in that process, is we want to make sure that, if a lead is coming in, we want to make sure that the lead is appointed, because what’s the point of spending all that money and the lead not being appointed, and give them operational guidance in the meantime.

Like, “Guys, if 40% of your patients did not book an appointment because you have no room or–” One of the metrics that we calculate is average lead time, “What is the average amount of time it takes for a new patient to call to book an appointment?” We have clients 90 days, 112 days.

Alex: It takes them that long in the research phase before they’re calling?

Amol: No, no, no. A patient calls today, calling in February, you can get an appointment in July.

Alex: Oh boy, I’m seeing that a lot. I’m seeing that a lot. That’s right.

Amol: That is capacity. What it then leads to is the idea that, let’s sit down with your operations leaders and let’s figure out, “Can we add more capacity. Can we add more doctors? Maybe not. Can we add more hygienists? Maybe not. Can we add more operatories? Maybe not. Can we optimize your schedule in a way that, even if a new patient calls, wants to spend $10,000, you put them in another column and say, ‘By the way, we’ll figure it out once they get there.'” We can’t say no to a $10,000 patient, and we can’t tell them, “Come in August,” when it’s February.

That’s why we have succeeded in this industry, because we don’t want to just make it about metrics. We want to make it about actions that come out of metrics. If all you do is make pretty charts and pretty graphs and show them hindsight, nobody really cares about it. The evolution of metrics, one of the questions you had on your sheet that one of your people sent me, was, where do you see the future of analytics in healthcare? The future of analytics is we have to move from hindsight to insight to foresight. Hindsight is what’s happened, insight is why did it happen, and foresight, what can we do about it to fix it?

Alex: That’s right.

Amol: If we can do that leveraging AI, then we have all won because now we are driving more revenue without spending more money. We’re driving the right type of leads, if you have the right person driving those leads.

Alex: Cardinal.

Amol: Cardinal it is.

Alex: You know where to spend the next dollar to keep growing.

Amol: That’s right.

Alex: The capacity thing has been a huge issue. Now we’re only running media based on capacity numbers fed to us from our clients because we’re finding that we’re spending tons of money on media. The next online appointment available is three weeks out. What is the point? Why are we doing that? Very cool. Something you guys just rolled out, something about GA4. This is not my thing, but this is something pretty innovative for Patient Prism, right?

Amol: Yes. The idea was obviously GA4 is the newest, baddest, biggest thing in analytics launched by Google, and they’re eliminating the old universal analytics. A lot of marketing folks out there in the world are trying to utilize it in a way where it really tracks your goals and how you’re meeting those goals. We decided to take all the juice that we have in Patient Prism, which is not only understanding the booking status, but understanding what they wanted, the value of what they wanted, and then really report that to analytics in a way where we are understanding–

Are we getting a deeper understanding of the customer? Not just an overall understanding of, “Oh, just new patients.” I want to understand my goals by campaign, my goals by type of the patient that we were trying to look for. If you’re not spearfishing patients today and you’re just throwing stuff on the wall, hoping it sticks and– By the way, AI is great, but it doesn’t really work in allocating your budget dollars because it’s just going to put it all over the place.

Our analytics platform is meant to really supercharge your Google Analytics for implementation in a way that gives you precise understanding of your goals by campaign, by keyword, by patient type.

Alex: What differentiates– There’s other calm, lead-tracking, conversational, intelligence platforms out there. Why Patient Prism? Everyone listening is saying, “Okay, well, I [unintelligible 00:14:42] we’ll talk about doing small implementations,” but what do you think Patient Prism– What helps it stand out from some of the other not-to-be-named partners?

Amol: It’s our people. We focus a lot on customer success. We care. Our customer success team spends countless amount of hours with teams at our clients, operationalizing the platform, because you can put [unintelligible 00:15:07] the best thing ever, and nobody uses it, it’s no good. We have to get the people in the organization to move. We have to get them inspired to believe that doing this is good for everything, and not just good for the DSO or the MSO or anybody else. We have to really understand the why of the people answering the phones.

We have to understand the needs of the VP of operations, the VP of marketing, the VP of finance. We have to really win them over. The reason why Patient Prism is different, because we failed a lot in the first few years. We thought we have all the AI and everything else, but nobody cared about that. People cared about their own problems. Not my problem. People cared about what they care about. Once you start caring about what they care about, which is, “Oh, I don’t have time in the day to figure your stuff out.”

We had to make sure we designed the platform in a way that enabled people to embrace it and use it and adopt it to actually make positive change for positive revenue growth and EBITDA growth. That’s why we’re different. It’s the people.

Alex: That’s interesting. That’s the first time I’ve heard a product-based company say that the people is the differentiator. I agree. I think I’ve been, I don’t know how many Salesforce conferences and Dreamforce. Then half of the people in the roundtables are like, “Yes, it’s shelfware. It’s cool, it’s powerful, but we don’t use it.” It’s because no one showed why it’s going to be important to drive change. They didn’t get the other departments together. That’s a cool answer.

Amol, what do you see for the upcoming year for you guys? What do you guys see as the trends? If someone’s listening to this and saying, “We already have one of the not-to-be-named other call tracking partners,” is there a way to test? Do they have to roll it out on all locations? Is there a way to do it a small way to get the foot in the door, see if the text better than the other one?

Amol: We actually do not recommend anybody to roll it out across their location because of the change management stuff I talked about. We want to make sure we teach you or we work together to figure out the SOP in your organization and how it’s going to be worked, because we might roll it out and you may not have time to do it. Okay, well that fails. If you’ve got 30 offices, 20 stores, whatever that might be, let’s start with first four or five, and let’s figure out– I respect all my competition.

All of us are working hard to make the industry better. What we want to do is put a side-by-side, and let’s see what value we’re bringing to the table. If you like the value in 90 days, there’s no commitment beyond 90 days for anybody. After 90 days, we don’t even sign long-term contracts because, again, I don’t want to tie somebody down into a contract if it’s not adding value. It doesn’t make me feel good. My grandma, who I love very much, died 11 years ago, would not be happy if she’s watching. I got to be honest.

Alex: You got to sleep at night.

Amol: I got to sleep at night and I got to make her happy. At the end of the day, we want you guys to try it and see the change that we can bring about. If we cannot bring about that change, we will tell you that, “You know what? Maybe this is not the right solution for you now. You need to fix your marketing first.” If you’re not getting any leads and if your marketing is broken, we’ll tell you that. If you’re spending $3,000 and getting two Invisalign starts, and your cost per acquisition is $1,500, which means you’re losing money on Invisalign campaign, don’t do it. Use the money to take family on vacation or something.

We’re going to give you honesty, and we’re going to tell you that, “Hey, try it before you buy it.” We’re going to tell you that, “Try and let’s walk together first. Let’s figure out if this can be operationalized within your platform. Let’s figure out whether we can appoint a champion in your organization that can literally get this done.” If we can figure that out in the first 90 days, which we have had a 99% track record of moving everybody past 90 days. We want to keep our key people accountable to know that if we don’t do our job, the customer has the right to move on. That’s important.

Alex: That’s right. New vision statement for Patient Prism, making grandma happy.

Amol: Making grandma– it’s always a statement. She’s still on my screen saver for my phone for 12 years.

Alex: Wonder how [unintelligible 00:19:17] that. That’s fine. What are you most excited about over the next year? You’re one of the most innovative people, and definitely the biggest celebrity. I went to the ADSO commerce. We’re a sponsor. Nobody talks to me. I go around this guy, five people talk to him. I can’t even– I just went and got a beer but this is how famous this guy is.

Over the next year, what is something you wish Patient Prism or any conversational intelligence platform could do, they can’t do because of limitations of tech or whatever? What’s the next coolest thing? Any of these technologies?

Amol: Well, we are getting towards automation. Right now, we have a couple of problems in all of healthcare today. One is that there is a shortage of clinicians. Second, there’s a shortage of people that are non-clinicians. There’s a 50% turnover at the front, across the board in healthcare. 59%, I saw the last statistic.

Alex: Support staff?

Amol: Are looking for a new job? 59% of new front office staff are looking for new jobs. Everybody looking for new jobs, which is the [unintelligible 00:20:14]

Alex: Not my team, but yes.

Amol: You take care of them. You got 2x. The thing is, what we want to do is we want to enable organizations to use automation, AI technology to do things that are more manual. For example, I’ll give you an example. What’s coming is the ability for us to do automatic outbound dials based on a smart list of people that we need to activate. We know 40% of patients that are called outbound or reach voicemail, leave a voicemail. If the patient picks up the phone, then connect them to a human.

We don’t want humans to do tasks that are repetitive and laborious and boring. We want humans to do things that build patient trust that make the patient feel important and valued. That’s what we want to do is reduce the reliance on humans to do the tasks that are needed to reactivate patients, for example, and create these outbound, smart, intelligent dialers, outbound analysis of how successful are we in– Reappointment rate is a big deal. Especially in dentistry, you want, in general dentistry, you want a 90% plus reappointment rate. It’s not happening because patients are falling at the bottom of the funnel.

Alex: Nobody wants to spend their time calling.

Amol: Nobody wants to spend time calling. Can we make it easier? Can we do text nurturing campaigns? We’ve launched text nurturing already. If the office doesn’t answer the phone, if the office doesn’t book an appointment, could we deliver them a pre-approval for $5,000? “Hey, we’ve just approved $5,000.” We’re talking to several partners in the financing space saying, could we activate patients by giving them money right away and approving them for money without a human involved in that process.

That’s my goal for 2023 and 2024, is more automation and getting humans out of the minutiae of doing things that are just not adding value to the patients. Getting more patients in, access to care. We want more patients in this industry. 50% of America hasn’t seen a dentist, which is crazy.

Alex: Ever?

Amol: Yes, 50% of America. Look at how big our industry could be. Of the 50% who have seen a dentist, only 50% have accepted treatment. All this money we’re spending, imagine how much we could grow this industry. From $120 billion, this could be a 500 billion industry, only if we keep attention to the metrics that are important. We are the keepers of the right type of intelligence. Not just data throwing on dashboards, making it look pretty.

Alex: We got to get the humans out of the minutiae and make the clinician’s job easier. If they’re able to see five instead of two patients in the same amount of time because of automation technology, we’re going to get a lot more access to care. That’s good. Amol, not only famous, not only one of the best tech wizards out there, but actually does care about making sure patients are getting connected with care. A good guy, a neighbor, a friend, and an innovator. Amol, thanks for joining Ignite.

Amol: Thank you, sir.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our [email protected].

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