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Want to Improve Patient Satisfaction? Try Integrating Technology

6 Nov 2014 by Chuck Appleby

As the healthcare industry moves from a volume-based, fee-for-service model to one based on value, accountable care and population health management, engaging patients in their own care becomes critical.

An article published in HealthAffairs reviewed more than 100 studies that quantified patient engagement, and found that patients who are actively engaged in their own healthcare are more likely to take part in positive health behaviors, have better outcomes and enjoy better care experiences.

With technology, hospitals are enhancing the patient experience

Now, take the concept of patient engagement one step further and think about the overall patient experience. Healthcare organizations are creating environments where both patients and their families are an integral factor in the patient experience. By offering access to technology, they are ensuring patients and their families can interact and find comfort during their visit — from the moment they walk in the hospital’s doors to the moment they leave — providing greater outcomes, a better experience and a lasting satisfaction.

It’s easy to get lost in a hospital, but technology is changing that

One of the most frightening experiences is needing to go to the hospital, whether it’s a routine visit or a mad dash to visit a family member in the Intensive Care Unit. This unnerving experience is compounded when people arrive and struggle to find their way through the maze of hallways and corridors — all of which look identical. Healthcare organizations are now using monitors and way-finder displays to guide people from hospital entrance to their chosen destination, giving patients and visitors one less thing to worry about.

The wait is over, thanks to kiosks

Rushing to the hospital, only to wait in line at the check-in desk can be aggravating. Through registration kiosks, hospitals are offering an interactive alternative. Located in the lobby, these touch screen displays let patients sign in and be on their way to the care they seek.

Providing patients with a pleasant experience, and a home away from home

In the past two years, tablet computers have become an information workhorse. They combine the best of both worlds: portability within and outside the hospital campus, and much bigger displays than their smartphone cousins. Bigger visual displays make it easier for patients to navigate their own medical records as well as the physical landscape of the hospital itself.

“Tablet screen size enables certain things that smartphones can’t do,” said Dr. Joseph C. Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, a research and consulting unit that’s part of Partners Healthcare, a Boston-based integrated health system. “Tablets are better for the elderly, visually impaired and those with clumsy fingers.”

While the use of portable technology such as tablets in healthcare is a work in progress, some hospitals are discovering that tablets can give patients greater access and choice. In hospital rooms, patients are using tablets to adjust room temperature, order movies to watch, and order breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, tablets also are being used to request help from a nurse, access videos of their doctors explaining procedures and check lab results.

Making the waiting room experience, a more comfortable experience

Have you ever sat in a waiting room as your loved one was in surgery? At some point, reading hospital literature becomes an option because you’ve already read the back issues of People magazine and Sports Illustrated. Hospitals now understand that the overall patient experience includes the experience of family and friends too. Waiting rooms are being outfitted with tablets that provide Internet access and flat-screen TVs to watch movies — giving those waiting, a more comfortable environment to wait in.

In the end, the patient experience improves patient satisfaction

Such pilots and initiatives are glimpses of the future in healthcare. As we’ve noted elsewhere, technology convergence is accelerating in healthcare. Tablets and other high-definition displays and devices, both inside and outside of the hospital, will become even more important tools in improving the patient experience and patient satisfaction. Hospital leaders now understand that these technology solutions, offered from check-in to discharge, can increase HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores, improve patient outcomes and lead to a greater number of patient referrals.