During the Patient Experience Conference 2013 last week, we hosted a VIP roundtable event to get some real-time industry thinking on the subjects of patient engagement in acute care and the e-patient experience. Here are 11 quick insights from our discussions:
- The emergency department is a big concern for patient satisfaction. As a bottleneck with capacity challenges (for example: patients lined in the hallways due to only having 45 beds for 89 patients) will patients say they got the best care? Probably not. Uninsured/charity care plays a large role in this problem. Additionally, mental health patients who have no where else to go can take up residency in the hospital for months at a time. The care teams are short on mental health staff and other resources to deal with these high-need patients.
- Leaders have found value in the use of patient advisory teams consisting of non-healthcare professionals (just “normal people”) to deliver thoughts on patient experience and branding. When trying to improve your scores, if you are a 4 out of 5 most people will just try to do 4 “better.” Sometimes you have to re-imagine your process to get to the 5 level.
- As far as government reimbursement penalties are concerned, most feel hospitals just need to “play the game.” Government is effectively setting cost control and drawing the line to push out low performers. If you do play, reimbursements are not enough to compensate, but if you don’t play you lose money. They noted it took this government penalties to really create the patient experience movement, as money talks to the C-suite. Think physicians also have to be held accountable for loss of revenue.
- Technology can help with patient experience, although some see it as a crutch for fundamental service gaps. Patient experience staff don’t usually consider technology to help solve patient experience problems, always think of staff training/people solutions first. Leaders don’t want technology to be a documentation burden for nurses, but encourage them not to fear change. It should enhance their workflow already present, not interrupt it. Love tablets because they are instant, can be used in front of the TV, unlike a computer they don’t feel like “work.”
- Most feel like patient access to their medical records would increase engagement. Patients are at a disadvantage when they are in care at the hospital or doctor’s office. They’re sick, which is a psychological and physical disadvantage that can keep them from absorbing knowledge. Access to information they can continually look at, refer to in their own time, at their own pace, is helpful.
- For e-patients, the group liked the idea of real-time communication with care teams, like an internal social network. To be better connected, tablet to doc, would be ideal. As far as engaging patients online, some facilities
have implemented feedback loops on their website where someone will respond to a question within 30 minutes or less.
- Patients consider their room at the hospital their “home” for the few days that they are there. Staff should consider it the same way. When you approach someone in their home and just start touching them without talking to them and introducing yourself and your purpose it can be off-putting. Empathy training is helpful, and avoiding the “Can’t do that, it’s not our policy.” kind of statement is key.
- Engaged patients are the way of the future. ePatient Dave effectively researched his own condition and helped self-diagnose. In today’s information-rich world, it is impossible for clinicians to stay up to date on medical knowledge, so patients should be empowered with the information they need. Physicians should have open communication and connectedness, be able to discuss with patients what they may have read online and not take offense to home research. See the relationship with the patient as a partnership toward a united goal.
- Nurses feel there is a communication gap from leaders to staff. Communication gaps in general lead to the majority of in-hospital fatalities. The nurse must wear so many hats things get lost.
- System must get back to effective, personal communications with patients, setting proper expectations. For example, not setting an expectation for spa treatments, after all this is a hospital. Or in pain management, expect pain to come with surgery, different than medical/chronic pain experienced outside of the hospital. Some people want to feel no pain, but the goal here is manageable pain.
- In today’s world patients come to hospital assuming they are going to get good clinical care. As a consumer, they are pushing the definition of quality to include service. They will only remember how you made them feel. They want “always” care in line with HCAHPS, but is it realistic? The group was torn on this.
Needless to say we learned a lot and covered a lot of ground in a couple of hours. If you enjoy conversations around topics like the above and would like to join a future VIP roundtable event, please send your contact info to email@example.com and we’ll add you to our list of potential invites.
In my next blog I’ll explore what we learned at the conference itself including insights from sessions and networking with attendees.