What Is the Patient Experience?
According to the Institute of Medicine, healthcare needs to be “safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient and equitable.” The Beryl Institute defines the patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” There are about as many definitions as there are sources and institutions that discuss the patient experience.
Facility managers, patient experience officers, nurse managers, doctors, clinicians, IT teams and everyone involved in the healthcare process all must consider their impact on the patient experience. The patient experience begins long before a patient sets foot in a healthcare facility, and even before their first point of communication.
The patient experience begins when architects design facilities, when clinicians are hired and when marketing professionals create messaging. All departments need to keep the patient experience in mind and ensure that the work they are doing enhances that experience.
How Does Safety Impact the Patient Experience?
Patient safety is a vast and sometimes overwhelming topic, as it means different things in different scenarios. It can refer to fall prevention, avoiding medical errors or technological safety in a patient room. Therefore, it’s important to consider many angles and scenarios when planning to manage risks. You can be creative in coming up with ways to improve both safety and the patient experience.
Fall prevention, for example, often requires input and support from many different care providers, and patients need to understand it, too. Often patients need to receive this information as soon as possible. However, they may also prefer to review it once they’re settled in an acute care space. For the busy nursing staff, finding the time to re-communicate this information can be difficult. Instead, facilities can provide a link to a video on a television or tablet near the bedside that patients can watch at their leisure. This helps patients feel more independent while also keeping them safe.
Speaking of televisions, it’s critical that your facility uses UL-Listed, healthcare-grade televisions. They’re designed for infection control and to safely be powered on much longer than consumer or commercial televisions. Smaller, more personal healthcare televisions and tablets are designed to be low voltage or powered over ethernet. This keeps patients safe from the risk of shock, even if they have an IV break in their skin.
How Do Effective Communications Improve the Patient Experience?
Communication is one of the most important elements of the human experience, so it is fitting that it applies to the patient experience as well. We communicate to share our story and to understand someone else’s. The same is true in healthcare. Patients communicate their health stories, and providers must communicate information such as treatment plans back to patients.
Making communication effective for healthcare providers typically means making it efficient and convenient. Clinicians often have incredibly busy schedules with many patients. In addition, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing projects a nursing shortage.
The easier the communication is, the better the patient experience.
Technology is now a driving force of communication between healthcare providers and their patients. Forbes’ recent article about how technology is improving the patient experience outlines all the surveys, data, concerns and questions about how insurance, privacy, and healthcare delivery are all affected by technology and communication.
By providing easy access to information and education that nurses and clinicians can reference, you can improve the effectiveness of their communication with patients.
Why Is Transparency Important in Communication Between Patients and Care Teams?
Perhaps the biggest call for transparency in healthcare is for price transparency. Healthcare is becoming more consumerized, and providers will soon need to provide “shoppable” prices for their health services online. Interestingly, many patients don’t use the posted prices to “shop” for the lowest price for care. Instead, they simply want to know the amount so they can be prepared when the bill comes. With higher deductibles, patients are paying more for their care out-of-pocket than they have in the past, as outlined in a report released by the California Health Care Foundation, so being able to see the cost in advance is helpful for their budgeting and their experience.
Not only is price transparency relevant now in healthcare, but consistent messaging is important for creating a good patient experience. Consistent, effective communication between healthcare providers and patients ensures that patients receive the right information. It also empowers the patient and reassures them that they understand what’s happening. Sometimes a doctor can tell a patient one thing, and then the next nurse that comes in says something different.
This confusion can lead to doubt and anxiety for the patient. Because this scenario would hurt the patient’s experience, it could also lead to lower HCAHPS patient satisfaction scores.
Conversely, when each healthcare provider gives the patient the same information, patients feel more confident in their care. It’s also important for care teams to not only tell but also demonstrate to patients that they are there to answer any questions. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reveals that sometimes patients are slow to bring up questions about pain control and pain management. Clinicians can improve communication using digital bedside technology to answer their questions in advance.
How Does Digital Technology Impact Patient Education?
As technology advances for consumers, it’s also advancing in the healthcare sphere, and popular tech trends can often overlap. Facilities are turning to video more frequently for their patient education despite digital adoption being a concern for hospital managers. Whether your facility subscribes to leading patient education video content or has customized your own educational videos to help patients understand more about their health condition and treatment, or you’d rather just show a pre-op or post-op video you found on YouTube, video is one of the most effective ways to educate patients. Video is typically written to a fifth grade reading level, captures people’s attention more and encourages them to watch and learn more than reading paper flyers.
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A great way to use a digital solution to engage patients and improve education is to use it to deliver discharge instructions. Some facilities give their patients stacks of papers full of discharge instructions, and while this is well-intentioned, technology can help. By using technology to convey the discharge instructions, you can ensure interaction with the patient. For instance, patients may have to scroll to the bottom of the page to sign, or even answer a question, before they can move on to the next page. You can also easily send a copy to the patient via email. This way, the patient has an electronic resource to be able to easily search for answers to their questions.
How Can Patient Spaces Be More Human-Centric?
The people who walk through the doors to your healthcare facility are people first and patients second. It can be easy for healthcare providers to get caught up in treating the problem, rather than connecting with the patient human-to-human.
Let’s take extensive EHR requirements as an example. Electronic health records can be time-consuming, and it can be convenient to be at the computer inputting data while talking to the patient. However, this can sometimes make patients feel as though they’re not getting their provider’s full attention. By taking steps to put the patient first, in all “gaze-time” situations, you can make your hospital more patient-centric.
Children’s hospitals often provide great patient-centered care, even simply in the design of the spaces. With interactive play areas, fun decorations in patient rooms and intelligent use of technology, the sterile hospital space can become more family- and patient-centric.
Offering patient-centered care also helps patients feel empowered and engaged in the care process. This often comes from increased communication with their care team, as we mentioned earlier. By taking the time to listen to patients and respond thoughtfully, you can show them that you truly care about their thoughts and about them as a person. This leads to improved patient-provider relationships and even improved health outcomes. People who feel involved in a solution are more likely to follow it.
What Is Designing for Patient Comfort?
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities need to provide an optimal healing environment for patients. This often begins in the design stage, and it’s critical that healthcare architects and medical equipment planners consider how their design choices will impact patients. One of the biggest problems for patients, and therefore healthcare providers, is too much noise.
This is why the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) has noise-related questions in their survey: because it is a major contributing factor to a patient’s experience.
Between beeping machines, the commotion of people walking by and the television two rooms over that’s playing on maximum volume, it can be hard to find peace and quiet in a hospital, even if you’re using a relaxation app.
With smart design choices, and the ability to get real-time patient feedback, your facility can avoid or lessen the impact of noise on the floor. Choosing personal televisions can be a great solution. Patients can move the device nearer so they don’t need the volume as loud, or they can use headphones for a fully personalized experience.
Healthcare-grade patient televisions offer volume limiters as well. Interactive patient software on bedside tablets can allow patients to submit real-time feedback—such as the noise level is too high—so nurses and other staff can act immediately to rectify the situation and improve the patient experience.
Patient spaces can be as unique as the facilities themselves. Because of this, technology and its accompanying hardware cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. Some spaces might need a traditional wall mount, while others would benefit from a floor or ceiling mount. Specialized departments like cardiology need a high-tilt mount TV where patients can lie flat on their backs, whereas facilities undergoing renovations may want a horizontal boom mount. A space-saver patient TV solution works great in infusion pods or half-height walls. For more information on different types of mounts, head to our blog and learn the nine ways to mount your personal patient television or patient tablet.
Patient comfort and satisfaction are integral to the success of a healthcare facility. Take time during the design phase to put technology, such as healthcare-grade televisions, and processes into place that can help solve these problems before they occur.
How Can Hospitals Use Technology to Improve Timeliness?
Having to wait while you’re sick or in pain can be excruciating. To provide an excellent experience, make the time between when a need is recognized and when care is given as short as possible. When urgent-care facilities become busy, care can sometimes be delayed, especially for those with the least-pressing needs. This can lead to a negative patient experience.
When there are long delays, mobile TV carts can provide a distraction for waiting patients. Sometimes you need to entertain patients in non-standard locations, such as overflow areas or rooms that don’t have patient-facing technology. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a mobile TV cart. Whether you give patients access to television, games, relaxation programming or even the Internet, providing a welcome distraction can help their wait time feel shorter. This, in turn, can help improve their experience.
Decreasing wait times is a difficult task, but the industry is beginning to make it easier with the growth of telemedicine. Virtual visits can be a great solution, especially for people with non-urgent concerns who still want help as soon as possible. Telehealth visits, often adopted by millennials, are often less expensive; they’re also far more convenient.
By providing a telehealth option for your patients, you can improve their perception of your healthcare facility and increase their quality of care, too. Telehealth can also help providers offer remote monitoring for patients with chronic conditions. This can save time and money, especially for patients who do not need to return for a follow-up because the remote monitoring shows they are doing fine. Telehealth and telemedicine are great options to improve the patient experience by providing care in a more timely way.
What Is the Patient Experience for At-Home Care or Care Closer to Home?
Patients need care as soon as possible, and when telehealth isn’t an option, smaller clinics can provide patient care versus patients traveling to large hospitals, urgent cares, and emergency rooms. There is a growing trend in the industry to bring healthcare closer to home. In some cases, that actually means bringing care into the home.
For example, home hemodialysis has recently increased in popularity. In fact, home hemodialysis in 2016 made up approximately 18% of all home therapy compared to only 4% in 2000. Home therapies in general, not just dialysis, have shown to result in better health outcomes, and patients are often more engaged in their care. Home therapies are a great way to encourage people to follow through on their healthcare plans. Sometimes getting to appointments is difficult for patients. By providing an option like home therapy or telemedicine, you can remove that barrier and improve patient access to care.
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Micro-hospitals are another growing trend in healthcare. This consumer-driven expansion of target markets is moving health services into neighborhoods with hopes of attracting new patient revenues. These small inpatient facilities offer many services on a smaller scale, conveniently located near patients’ homes. Often affiliated with large health networks, they are a more convenient option for people who don’t live near a major hospital.
Another option is available for patients who don’t want to have procedures done in the hospital. In many cases they can instead choose to visit an ambulatory surgery center (ASC). These physician-owned centers improve the patient experience with decreased wait times, improved quality and better scheduling options. ASCs focus on providing their patients with the best possible surgery experience.
Finally, mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations are other growing trends in the healthcare industry, and they’re affecting many healthcare consumers. Consolidations often result in more “in-network” providers, which makes it more convenient for patients to see various providers and specialists without the hassle of leaving their network. Mergers and acquisitions will continue to grow in the future, as smaller start-ups are brought under the umbrella of more established health networks.
How Can IT Departments Contribute to a Better Patient Experience?
When people think of the word “efficient,” the word “healthcare” doesn’t often come to mind. In fact, many people would likely say that efficiency and healthcare are opposites. It can seem like the process of making an appointment to receiving care to having tests to scheduling follow-ups and completing care plans takes a very long time.
Patients also want efficient and easy access to their entertainment while in the hospital. The best way to meet these needs is to have the devices conveniently located at the patient’s bedside. In other cases, patients would need to ask a nurse or aide to bring them a tablet or other device in order to distract themselves. With a bedside-mounted touchscreen TV/tablet, patients can watch TV, play games or browse social media without needing to call their nurse.
Hospitals and their IT departments have options to help improve their efficiency beyond patient entertainment, as well. Many electronic health record (EHR) platforms can automate many manual processes. For example, when patients complete forms electronically, the forms are automatically analyzed and stored for future use, without taking time from the staff.
There are other automation tools that healthcare providers can explore. Nurses and aides are often incredibly busy, working hard to ensure their patients have everything they need. Sometimes it might be helpful for patients to communicate their needs more effectively to their caregivers. By investing in the right technology, you can solve this problem and better connect patients and their providers. This way the requests can go to the right person and nurses and aides can provide better care more quickly.
Technology is being used to supplement a great patient experience, not to replace it.
This can make the most of the staff member’s time, as they can know what the patient needs before they even enter the room. This also allows for patients to be more engaged and active in their care. Technology and automation can also be used for messaging with patients or payment processing, which can save staff time and improve revenue collections.
What Do Healthcare IT Managers Worry About Most with Connected Technology?
Data security certainly makes up a significant part of any healthcare IT department’s costs and worry. Anyone in healthcare has HIPAA concerns because healthcare organizations manage a significant amount of personal patient health information. IT departments are often in control of this data, and any software they invest in and implement needs to protect that information.
Electronic health records (EHRs) contain perhaps the most sensitive pieces of information. As EHRs become more widespread, IT departments are tasked with protecting them in an ever-changing world of information security and encryption. Over half of healthcare organizations are investing in health IT as more and more devices become connected to the Internet, thus exposing EHRs to security risks.
Integrated technology has not yet been perfected for healthcare use, although it is an excellent tool for providers. Early healthcare innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) cannot take the place of a clinician to deliver a diagnosis to a patient through an electronic health record system. But the benefits of AI can help care providers focus on the patient experience.
IT managers in healthcare have different concerns with connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The more devices that are connected, the more devices need to be protected.
As hackers become smarter and more skilled, they will find new ways to enter a system through an unprotected device. When protecting highly sensitive information like a patient’s medical records, IT managers are rightfully concerned about cybersecurity breaches.
Ransomware attacks are increasing, and that trend is likely to continue upwards. Simultaneously, cybersecurity in healthcare will also likely become stronger. When implementing an integrated solution in a medical space, IT managers want to know that it is safe and secure enough to keep patients’ private information and medical devices safe.
Integration of Care for Patient Continuity
When patients move from one hospital to another or from a hospital to a rehab center or nursing home, it’s important that those transitions are smooth. Healthcare providers can use digital technology integration to improve the patient experience in a meaningful way across the continuum of care. Healthcare providers often collect a lot of data from their patients, and it’s important that they focus on meaningful use. From test results to patient interviews, health records contain a large amount of sensitive information.
Patients can often become frustrated if they repeat the same information to provider after provider.
Digital media solutions can give healthcare practitioners a way to quickly review a patient’s information before seeing them. This can help the patient feel seen and improve their patient experience. This is especially important when patients are moving from one facility to another to ensure that nothing is lost.
Meaningful use is important to patients because it ensures they are understood and have people accountable for their care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ meaningful use rule, also called promoting interoperability, has been updated throughout the 10 years it has been in place to make it more useful for patients. As of last year, a patient’s EHR must be updated and available the day they leave the hospital. Other updates include needing to provide data in a way that patients can view information from multiple providers.
What Impact Does Technology Have on Equitable Access to Healthcare for Patients?
Equitable access to healthcare has been an important factor since before 2001. All patients deserve to be given equal quality healthcare, but this still doesn’t always happen. While there have been changes, there is still progress to be made. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of uninsured people who are classified as “poor” who were between the ages of 18 and 64 decreased from 44% to 25% from 2010 to the second quarter of 2015. While this is encouraging to see, there is room for improvement, as in Q2 of 2015, only 7.5% of those classified as “not poor” were uninsured.
One of the easiest ways that technology can make a difference is by providing translation services for patients whose primary language is different from their providers. With the right technology, patients and providers can use video-conferencing software to have an interpreter present to ensure that the patient can understand and be understood.
Aside from the actual care itself, patient entertainment is a major factor in the patient experience.
Often times this comes in the form of television or another type of technology. Depending on their condition, some patients cannot control a TV, whether the control is a pillow speaker, a typical remote or even a touchscreen device. Instead, these patients might need accessibility solutions such as a sip-and-puff solution to control the TV. By providing this option, you can give access to the same entertainment to all of your patients.
When talking about health equity, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention social determinants of health. Even if all hospitals truly provided equitable care to every patient, changes still need to be made outside of those four walls. When people live in physical and social environments that are more harmful than helpful to their health, no amount of care in a hospital can fix it. Full health equity comes from addressing and making changes to these social determinants.
A History of Patient Rights
In the early 1970s, the American Hospital Association published a list of 12 rights, known as a Patient’s Bill of Rights, that patients could expect when entering a hospital. This list was revised in 1992, and in 2003 it was replaced with The Patient Care Partnership. Any patient can ask for a copy of the partnership when they enter a hospital and should be given a brochure outlining their expectations. These include high-quality care with personal involvement, a clean and safe care environment, protection of privacy and help to leave the hospital and with billing.
Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, there have been additional patients’ rights implemented in regard to insurance. These include being able to receive coverage for preexisting conditions and keeping children as dependents until age 26. One of the most important patient rights is informed consent. Under this right, a healthcare provider must give a patient as much information as they need to make a decision about their care.
Access to Care for Chronic Care Patients
Access to healthcare for patients with chronic conditions can be a major concern. While there have been some changes, as we previously mentioned, to improve insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions, advancements are still needed. Recently there has been plenty of news coverage about the rising cost of insulin, a necessity for the 7.4 million Americans with Type 1 diabetes who need the drug. Because of these increases, many patients are sadly rationing this life-saving medication.
Access to care goes beyond being able to make an appointment and see a doctor. The need for health equity includes ongoing treatments, such as dialysis, chemo or other infusion treatments over a set period of time, or lifelong medicines, such as insulin. When it’s hard to receive care or too costly to purchase a critical drug, the patient experience becomes increasingly negative, and it takes a lot of work to rebuild that trust and support.
PDi pulls on multiple definitions to fully capture the essence of the patient experience. Considering the Beryl Institute’s definition, we use the six facets outlined by the Institute of Medicine to define the patient experience. Here, we’ve looked at how each of these elements plays a role in developing meaningful, integrated solutions to deliver the ultimate patient experience.
The patient experience is made up of many facets and it means something a little different to just about everyone. An integrated approach from many perspectives will help you deliver the ultimate patient experience. Providing an excellent experience to patients begins with remembering that they are people first, patients second. By treating the person before the patient, you can make a lasting impression and impact, as well as provide a positive experience.