How Ro Gives Providers “Super Powers” to Supercharge Quality Care

Written by Dr. Melynda Barnes, MD 

Written by Dr. Melynda Barnes, MD 

last updated: Oct 05, 2020

6 min read

In Ro’s Provider “Super Powers” series, we will break down the “super powers” that providers gain when using Ro’s platform. We’ll describe what these “super powers” are, how they work, and how they fit into the big picture of reimagining a patient-centric healthcare system. We will detail how each of them enables providers to practice at the top of their license, deliver more personalized care to more patients, and streamline administrative tasks so that their focus is on what matters most: each patient’s needs.

As a physician, I made the switch from providing direct patient care to leading medical affairs at Ro because I recognized the potential of technology to address many of the challenges in the healthcare system and to better serve both patients and providers.

There are too many people who need care and too few providers. 

This provider shortage is only growing worse: by 2033, the U.S. will be short nearly 139,000 physicians. This is one of the many reasons why it takes, on average, more than 29 days for patients to see a primary care physician, why that visit lasts ~13 minutes and why it will cost over $100, only to be followed by an average pharmacy wait time of 45 minutes. It’s also why more than 40% of physicians report feeling overburdened and burned out. These issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. From the printing press to the iPhone, the only way societies have been able to do more with less is by leveraging technology.

Take the personal banking industry for example. Technology has reshaped the banking experience, making it easier, seamless, more secure and more convenient to bank when and where you want and as frequently as needed. With just a few clicks on a smartphone or computer, you are directly connected to your finances and, with many banks, a person or application that will solve your needs and answer your questions. For many, online banking is just banking, and the online and in-person experience complement each other. And like with banking, technology has the opportunity to reinvent the healthcare industry, making the healthcare experience more accessible, more enjoyable, and more seamless between online and in-person care.

At Ro, we are leveraging technology to build the future of healthcare. We see that future as one in which technology empowers providers to deliver high-quality care and empowers patients to manage their health more easily and effectively.

Digital health technologies have two end users — patients and providers. That’s why Ro has an in-house team of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, including me, who are working hand-in-hand with software engineers, designers, and data scientists to build technology solutions that not only improve the patient experience, but also enable providers to do what they do best: help people. Leveraging technology, we can expand the reach of providers and offer care to more patients at an affordable price. We can address long-standing issues that have beset the healthcare system, burdened providers, and limited patients’ access to affordable healthcare.

The involvement of clinicians in building Ro’s technology infrastructure helps ensure it meets the highest standards of care, while also delivering patients’ desired health outcomes. This includes Ro’s end-to-end telehealth services and custom-built electronic medical record (EMR). These power Ro’s three digital health clinics — Roman for men’s health, Rory for women’s health, and Zero for smoking cessation — and Ro’s nationwide network of physicians and pharmacies, including Ro Pharmacy, a mail-order, cash-pay pharmacy offering over 1,000 generic medications.

At Ro, we call technology solutions that enable providers to practice at the top of their licenses and to focus on providing high-quality care to patients, “super powers.”

The first “super power” Ro’s technology gives providers is a comprehensive, patient-centric Online Visit that enables high-quality care.

Super Power #1: Comprehensive, patient-centric Online Visits

What it is

Ro’s adaptive, interactive patient intake process, or Online Visit as we refer to it, is a patient’s first touchpoint with our telehealth platform for any new conditions, prescription renewals, or follow up visits. It is designed to collect comprehensive health information securely from the patient to supply the providers on Ro’s platform with relevant and necessary information to effectively evaluate the patient’s condition and unique health profile. Through this intake and evaluation process, we aim to ensure no important health information is left out or questions go unasked or unanswered.

Potential risk factors for treatment and potential drug interactions between the medications that the patient reports they’re taking outside of Ro and the medications prescribed by providers on our platform are automatically flagged for providers. That way, providers on Ro’s platform have a comprehensive, patient-centric health profile to help inform safe and appropriate care. This fosters a meaningful conversation about the patient’s desired health outcomes when the patient and provider connect via secure messaging, phone, or video chat.

Ro’s Online Visits are developed for each condition treated on Ro’s platform and are continuously reviewed and updated by: Ro’s in-house medical affairs team, the providers who practice on Ro’s platform, Ro’s medical advisory board, and industry leading medical consultants. When this team develops the Online Visits, they are translating how a provider would collect clinical information about a patient in an in-person setting, with the added benefit of integrating the expertise of world class medical expertise.

How it works

Ro’s Online Visit is dynamic in that, like a physician, it adjusts its questions and information fields based on each patient’s responses. This enables the Online Visit to account for a patient’s unique health profile and related care needs as they complete the intake process. There are thousands of unique paths a patient could go down depending on their answers, the patient’s unique symptoms, and the complexity of their health history. For instance, if a patient comes to Ro for erectile dysfunction (ED), the Online Visit will collect information related to diabetes and high cholesterol, conditions often related to erectile dysfunction. Or, if a patient comes to us with a dermatological concern, they will be asked to upload a photo of their skin condition.

The Online Visit simulates how a physician would interview a patient in their office. Unlike in a traditional in-person care setting, however, patients using Ro’s platform can complete their Online Visit any time of day and take as long as they need to complete it. Providers are not limited by appointment slots and can take the time they need to thoroughly evaluate and connect with patients when it is most convenient for the provider.

The big picture

In-person physician visits are often rushed, with providers feeling the pressure of a back-to-back schedule and looming administrative tasks. Limiting the time patients and providers spend together can lead to gaps in a patient’s health history — providers may not be able to dig into a specific issue and patients may not know what information is important to disclose. In some healthcare settings, up to one in five patients who review their physician’s visit notes or electronic medical record (EMR) find errors.

As a physician, I understand the pressure providers feel during these rushed visits. This is particularly frustrating because physicians today often spend as much or more time completing documentation and billing requirements in EMRs as they do delivering face-to-face care. In this environment, it is especially challenging to ensure we are collecting all relevant patient information, especially for those with multiple health conditions.

We’ve all experienced the typical doctor’s visit: spend an hour or more waiting in a variety of rooms, and maybe 10 minutes with a physician whose face is hidden behind a computer screen. Imagine, instead, if you had a different healthcare experience, one where you answer a personalized set of questions based on your unique health history, symptoms, and condition you’d like treated. Then, that comprehensive information is analyzed and potential patient safety concerns are flagged for physician review (stay tuned for how Ro does this in a future post). This is presented to your physician in a clear and concise format that allows them to conduct their full evaluation and use that personalized picture of your health needs to help inform safe and appropriate care.

In this world, your provider can easily look at your chart, identify the condition for which you’re seeking care, and understand what makes your health needs unique (i.e., diabetic, on two medications, glucose under control, etc.). They can easily identify areas of your health history that might need more attention, so if they need to reach out, they know exactly what to ask.

Imagine how productive and focused that conversation would be and how much more likely you’d be to continue that conversation on an ongoing basis with your provider.

This is the experience enabled by Ro’s Online Visit. By following expert protocols to collect comprehensive information needed to inform safe and appropriate care, the Online Visit enables providers on Ro’s platform to personalize care to a patient’s unique health needs and goals. Providers have a complete patient profile in advance of communicating with the patient and are given as much time as needed to conduct a full review of the patient’s chart to determine a safe and appropriate treatment plan. Providers are able to connect with patients directly (and vice versa) anytime via direct and secure message, phone, or video chat to get more health information from the patient. Providers are not limited by office hours and can evaluate and connect with patients when it is most convenient for them.

For patients, Ro’s Online Visit offers an easy, efficient, and secure way to share their health information, and allows them to complete the visit at any time that is convenient and think through everything that might be helpful to inform their care.

By breaking down the walls of a typical, time-limited office visit and empowering providers with comprehensive, personalized patient information, Ro’s platform can help promote engagement between providers and patients and continuous care. It allows for fast and seamless interaction and communication, encourages more frequent interaction between patients and providers, and ultimately, helps empower providers on Ro’s platform to deliver personalized, patient-centric care.