Hospitals that deliver a better patient experience perform better financially, attract more loyalty from patients and reduce their malpractice rates, research shows. But how can hospitals invest more in patient care at a time when many facilities are short-staffed and dealing with razor-thin margins? They can start by tapping into a resource they all have at their fingertips—data.
And not just data from electronic health records or HCAHPS surveys, but insights that patients share about their experience through social media, patient discussion forums, hospital call centers, focus groups, interactive patient care apps and more. These internal and external sources provide hospitals with narrative data they can use to fill in gaps in patient experience and address concerns, complaints and feedback in a more holistic way.
As the healthcare industry becomes more consumer-focused, more hospitals will need to find ways to incorporate input from patients into their everyday decisions. This has long been the strategy for other industries, which tend to build their key performance indicators (KPIs) around customer feedback.
Here are five ways hospitals can use data to improve the patient experience, from the moment patients step inside the hospital until the moment they leave.
Gain a better understanding of patient expectations.Hospitals may think they know what patients expect, but their perceptions can be way off the mark, as Cleveland Clinic’s former chief experience officer Dr. James Merino discovered years ago when he dove deeper into the hospital’s stagnant HCAHPS scores. A quantitative and qualitative study commissioned by the hospital revealed that patients valued three things the most: respect, communication among care teams and a happy staff to interact with during their stay. When the hospital took an even deeper look at its emergency room operations through a patient focus group, leaders discovered that it wasn’t wait times that frustrated patients—as ER clinicians surmised—but the lack of concern and communication patients felt they received from hospital staff while they waited. The hospital used these insights to train staff to interact with patients during their wait and keep them informed about delays—and patient satisfaction scores shot up. While hospitals “can’t fix every little problem, we can zero in on the things that matter,” Dr. Merino writes in this Health Catalyst post. “And the only way to know how to zero in on what matters is by looking at the data.”
Provide more personalized care for patients.Hospitals have historically veered away from connecting emotionally with patients because they believed they needed to stay objective to treat patients effectively. But that mindset is changing. Hospitals are recognizing that tending to the emotional needs of patients can impact how they fare physically during their hospital stay and influence outcomes. Patients generally believe that they receive better, safer care when clinicians treat them as individuals and engage with them on a personal level. They often make assumptions about their care based on how the medical staff interacts with them and how well their doctors and nurses communicate with each other. “The ‘soft stuff’ counts to patients, and patients will continue to gauge their quality of care on their own proxy measures, because that’s what they understand,” Dr. Merlino says. Understanding the emotional factors that patients respond to—staff behavior, facial expressions, approachability, empathy, cleanliness of the facility, ease of scheduling, how billing works, etc.—can help hospitals make improvements that have the biggest impact on patient satisfaction, as technology consultant Kaushik Pal illustrates in this Data Informed post.
Improve responsiveness and communication at the bedside.Hospitals can use data from real-time health technologies to improve communication between care team members, engage patients and families, and provide more consistent care, as this Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review article notes. This kind of data can provide hospitals with a more comprehensive view of the teamwork, communication and connection between patients and caregivers— beyond the basic aspects of care measured by HCAHPS. Providers should be asking questions that focus on the quality of interactions with patients, such as:
•Do patients feel cared about, listened to and respected?
•How much time are we spending with patients?
•Are we taking enough time to answer their questions and clarify what we’re doing to them?
Analyzing the quality of the relationships between caregivers and patients provides valuable insights into the environment and culture of the hospital, which impacts all aspects of the patient experience, as Hospitals & Health Networks explores in this article. “It’s the moment-to-moment conversations—the way we interact—that let people know how much we care,” observes Dr. William Maples, executive director of The Institute for Healthcare Excellence, in the article. “If we don’t get this right, the rest of our efforts will not flourish.”
Keep staff morale high and medical error rates low.Using data to evaluate hospital culture and strengthen teamwork is also important for tackling burnout among nursing teams and avoiding communication breakdowns between care team members, which account for more than half of all preventable errors in hospitals, according to Dr. Maples. “The best technologies and strategies will fall short if we do not have teams with the capacity to communicate, learn and improve,” Dr. Maples writes. “Excellent communication among members of the healthcare team decreases mortality in hospitals, and enhances staff morale and engagement.” Inefficient care and medical errors are not only costly for hospitals, but they are also major contributors to patient dissatisfaction and poorer outcomes.
Reduce readmissions and track patient outcomes.Gathering feedback from patients throughout their hospital stay is important not only for improving their care experience, but also for ensuring their progress after discharge. The fact that nearly a quarter of hospital admissions happen within 30 days of a discharge means that many hospitals are releasing patients without fully resolving their issues. Before discharge, clinicians should be “accessing and analyzing medical and health data of patients and developing plans accordingly,” asserts Pal in his Data Informed post. They should use this data to analyze potential risks, emergency situations or problems with medication that may arise and educate patients accordingly, Pal adds. Hospitals could improve patient satisfaction and outcomes if they went a step beyond sending out HCAPS surveys—which take months to get insights from—and followed the example of consumer organizations that send emails or texts to customers immediately after doing business with them to get their input on their service, notes this Healthcare Catalyst post.
An emerging set of technologies, which Gartner refers to as the Real-time Health System (RTHS), is helping hospitals harness, share, analyze and use the data they have to meet patient needs in real time. Our newest Ebook explores this growing trend and how hospitals can incorporate real-time health technologies and data into their operations to improve outcomes and patient experience.
Our care assurance platform combines the best features of the Real-time Health System into an integrated solution with advanced clinical communication and collaboration, interactive patient care, alarm management and next-generation nurse call capabilities. Our platform is data-driven, with mobile device support, messaging and real-time data, reporting and analytics that increase accessibility, visibility and accountability for care teams. Schedule a free consultation with us to learn more.