Using medical computers and new technology to improve patient relations
The news is out, and the unofficial winners of “best” and “worst” HCAHPS have been cataloged and reported. These hospitals represent the highest and lowest scorers for patient satisfaction in the United States.
If you’re not familiar, HCAHPS stands for “Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems,” and is a survey taken by patients that covers satisfaction with hospital staff, treatment, and care in a Healthcare facility.
It’s an extremely important survey, administered and organized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But what do the numbers show? What do top-performing hospitals have in common? Conversely, what can we learn from the trends we see in low performers?
Where can medical computers, staff training, and policy shifts improve patient satisfaction?
Why Hospitals Score Low
As you can see, the first and most obvious difference between the high and low-scorers is size. Which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Where is a shopper more likely to get better service: at a Wal-Mart, or at a tiny local boutique?
The more beds a hospital has, the more difficult it becomes to organize. Logistics become increasingly complex, as does staff scheduling and supply. Unfortunately, this often leads to patients being left behind, forgotten, or forced to wait longer.
According to a study and analysis published in the US National Library of Medicine, the areas where large hospitals perform the worst are in cleanliness (specifically bathrooms and patient rooms), doctor and nurse communications, and “receiving help as soon as needed.”
Luckily for those low-scoring hospitals (or large hospitals looking to improve their scores in general), these problems are solvable with clear-headed strategy and the right medical technology (combined with staff training and adoption).
Creating a Cleaner Hospital
Let’s start with cleanliness.
If patients in larger hospitals are reporting complaints about seemingly unclean patient rooms and bathrooms, they’re probably right. It doesn’t exactly take an expert to notice when something needs sprucing up. However — especially in a large hospital — it isn’t as easy to keep track of a cleaning schedule.
That’s where things like medical tablets and barcodes or RFID tags can come in. The cleaning staff can have a small barcode or RFID wall mount attached in every patient room (and bathroom), that the staff member has to scan when they’ve finished cleaning. This creates a database of when every room was cleaned. This data can easily be exported automatically and paired with software that not only tracks when everything is cleaned but can send automatic alerts to members of the cleaning crew when a bathroom or patient room needs attention.
An antimicrobial tablet with barcode scanner (or RFID scanner) is clutch for this use: when moving between sponges, brushes, wipes, and the tablet, it’s very easy to spread germs. An antimicrobial tablet kills such vectors on contact and finding a tablet with a sealed bezel even allows the person cleaning to wipe the screen with more powerful cleaning agents.
These methods create a cleaner hospital, less chance of nosocomial infections, and happier patients.
The Power of Food and Entertainment
This is a simple solution, and one that many hospitals have already implemented: let the patient order food and entertainment with the touch of a button.
Over a thousand years ago, the Roman poet Juvenal coined the term “bread and circuses,” meaning that people are relatively easy to please. If they have a full belly and a busy mind, you pretty much won’t hear much discontent. When it comes to hospital patients, this wisdom is just as apt.
An infotainment unit — like a tablet, monitor, or bedside computer — should allow patients to not only access television shows, movies, and games. It should also allow the patient to make their meal choices, and put in their orders as soon as they’ve decided. This will not only save time for hospital food staff having to go room-to-room in a huge facility, but it will also reassure the patient that their food isn’t coming “at some point.” If a patient knows they’ve ordered food, and food is on the way, they’re more likely to tolerate a long wait (and, inevitably, leave a higher patient satisfaction score).
When tackling the problem of “doctor and nurse communication,” another thorn in the side of patient scores for larger hospitals, it’s important to train staff to use every tool at their disposal.
A robust patient portal is important, of course, and most providers have already put in a lot of effort in that arena. However, most patient satisfaction surveys come at the end of treatment—in other words, while they’re still in the hospital. It’s clear we need to improve patient communication right in the room: but how?
With a shortage of doctors and nurses, all of whom are extremely overworked, to begin with, a large hospital suffers more than others when it comes to communications. More rooms, more patients, more floor, more square footage to walk— it’s simply more difficult to make rounds at a quick pace.
Some hospitals are embracing in-room telemedicine to alleviate some of the strain. While not designed to wholly replace a doctor or nurse’s physical presence, a mounted medical monitor, patient infotainment screen, or other in-room tablet or computer can easily be configured to display text, video, or audio communication between patient and clinician.
If a nurse is taking blood, or checking up on an IV—or a doctor is performing a procedure or giving sensitive news, then yes, an in-person visit is, of course, priority #1. However, for check-up questions (pain level, cognition, medical history questions), these can be easily taken care of by a quick video or text chat between clinician and patient. Again, it’s not about creating a cold and unfeeling bedside discourse: it’s about saving time and giving patients the feeling that they are in contact with their doctor.
If a patient has a question, they can shoot a text or make a call through a bedside computer: they don’t have to wait God-knows how long for a doctor to swing by. Instead, they can get the question off their chest to feel better instantly, even if the answer takes some time to arrive.
Putting the Patient First
Patient satisfaction, of course, isn’t just a spitting contest for hospitals: it can actually be an important factor in continuing patient health. A happy patient is, after all, a healthy patient: one who follows instructions keeps a positive attitude and is more likely to have a better health outcome.
To learn more tips about how to integrate the kind of technology and strategies mentioned in this article, contact a representative from Cybernet today.