How are technology and patient satisfaction tied directly to the success of a medical provider? It’s a fascinating inter-dependent triangle that poses many questions.
Questions can be magical. A question implies a genuine curiosity from the one who asked the question. A question put between two people requires the act of at least one party listening. Asking a question is the one solid method of gaining insight into the thoughts and emotions of a person or group of people. This is especially helpful for a business or a brand, to try to read the minds of your target audience.
The only bad question is the one that goes unasked.
Professional groups like Global Data Systems figured this out a long time ago. Focus groups were used during World War II (1939-1945) to determine the effectiveness of wartime propaganda messages. Direct interaction with the public gave those responsible for crafting the messages the power to understand how to craft yet more convincing messaging. Thus, modern marketing was born!
Focus groups are still used, but not nearly as much purely because they’re expensive. Surveys are just as effective, but the challenge lies in obtaining a healthy number of survey responses. The good news? Email is cheap, and organizations can send huge volumes of emails at once with these surveys to cast a wide net in hopes of increasing response rate even marginally.
Email or not, one industry where survey respondents are more likely to answer is healthcare. Healthcare costs are rising, demand is increasing, and patients want to feel more in control. Healthcare is one area that directly impacts every critical aspect of life, from the ability to walk, breathe, and think, and yet we have limited knowledge of the processes going on inside our bodies and must rely on medical professionals with years of education and training to provide us with answers. Here, again, knowledge is power, and patients want the power of understanding. A patient’s relationship with a medical provider is intimate in that the patient must expose absolute vulnerability since medical professionals have yet to develop the ability to read minds – but there are machines for that!
Where Nuance Meets Numbers
The relationship, the knowledge, the control – or the lack thereof – all impact the way a patient perceives the medical care they receive. Much of this contributes to how they feel about their medical care, which is all that matters to the business of the matter. It’s where psychology meets practicality, where performance is measured via the numeric response.
Hospitals are far more likely to collect responses from patients about their satisfaction with their care. This data translates into quality of care, and these metrics are what the administrators use to gauge performance and determine goals for strategic planning. This information is also used to support staff changes, shifts in care based on community need, and to secure funding for healthcare programs for emerging trends.
Patient satisfaction surveys, like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, standardize treatment programs and patient processes. Scores from the HCAHPS influence payments for the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS), as well as purchasing programs, both of which are vital to healthcare operations.
By the numbers
- The “Call Button”
- Every patient, from transitional patients in emergency room beds to Intensive Care Unit patients in medically-induced unresponsive conditions, is equipped with a remote control-like device that includes a button to reach the nearest Nurse’s Station, where a nurse responds to the patient’s call to address their need. There are typical protocols in place for the maximum number of alerts or rings allowed before a nurse’s response is required, registered as “wait time”. These protocols are in place because of patient satisfaction surveys!
- How can you improve patient satisfaction in this area? More hospitals are providing wireless “floor phones” to nurses and patient care providers to allow for responses from providers rarely sedentary, with the added benefit of eliminating the need to staff a Nurse’s Station with an attendant tethered to a phone that may not ring from a patient alert.
- Promoting Rest and Recuperation
- Hospitals are the last place a patient can reasonably expect to rest! The walls are thin, nurses come to check blood pressure, temperature, and dispense medications on a regular basis, and the constant sounds of everything from doctors, nurses, patients and visitors talking, down to the beeping of the machines to which patients are hooked up prevent restful sleep.
- How can you improve patient satisfaction in this area? In the last few years, a new trend at many major hospitals is the institution of a “Quiet Time”, from a window in the afternoon to an evening curfew that isn’t lifted until morning, quiet times are improving patient opinion of sound-reduction efforts in areas where this is already a challenge. Rest is now being equated to recovery from a medical standpoint, and efforts are increasing to allow rest and prevent disruptions.
- Pain in the Neck
- There’s no easy way to put it: pain stinks! Pressing the call button can mean a patient needs help adjusting the bed or getting to the restroom, but it can also mean the patient is in pain and needs help. Response time can feel much longer when a patient is in pain, and – in the patient’s mind – this equates to quality of care.
- How can you improve patient satisfaction in this area? Aside from the call button issues already covered, this one boils down to communication. Communication with the patient, and between the medical providers, from doctors to nurses, and documentation are all critical elements.
- Tech Talk
- The technology exists to improve our lives – and here is one area that this is a definite! Using technology to increase communications between the patient and the “floor” healthcare providers, and the patient and the hospital, and the hospital and the “floor” staff, and even outside of this triangle (pharmacists, chaplains, lab staff, radiologists, and everyone involved in a patient’s behind-the-scenes care) can only be seen as a good thing. Efficiency in communication decreases response time, increases patient care productivity, and increases patient satisfaction. Think of the automation possibilities!
- How can you improve patient satisfaction in this area? The greatest leap made here was the introduction of electronic health records (EHR). With immediate access to a patient’s EHR, medical providers no longer needed to find a physical chart to refer to notes for medication, dosage, treatment options, or provider notes – to review or to make – preventing immediate action.
Giving patients a way to answer questions shows you not only want to learn from them and hear them but that your care doesn’t end with their discharge. Ask the questions that will result in answers that give you a deeper insight into the minds of patients, and you open the possibility to learn how to improve patient satisfaction – and improve HCAHPS scores.
Advanced technology was mentioned in each area outlined above, and it’s no shock that healthcare technology is evolving to meet the demands of modern patient needs to satisfy modern expectations. The role of technology in the future of healthcare is uncertain, but one thing Global Data Systems can guarantee: technology will have a role – see how!