Over the last few years, healthcare has seen a paradigm shift away from fee-for-service care models to a focus on value and outcomes. Regardless of potential changes  to U.S. healthcare policy under the Trump administration, it seems unlikely that value-based models are going away. Most healthcare organizations have already evolved their revenue operations to align with the spirit of value-based care. But many are struggling to meet core measures and find new ways to improve results. Web technology as it relates to patient satisfaction can help.

Among the challenges is patient satisfaction. In today’s competitive healthcare environment, it isn’t enough to simply treat a patient. Patients are people, and today they have more choice and a stronger voice in their care. Making them feel that they are engaged and heard is important, both for the patient’s health and for ensuring providers maintain patient satisfaction, expressed in improved Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.

Patient satisfaction: Making the subjective objective

Patient satisfaction requires a multi-faceted approach and a personal touch—as well as a technology one. At its core, the concept is somewhat subjective, similar to consumer metrics retailers use to measure customer loyalty. Like any service experience, the way patients perceive their hospital stay is dependent on a wide variety of factors. As such, crafting a “one-size-fits-all” patient satisfaction strategy isn’t an easy task. But what we can say is that good scores don’t come from patients being merely satisfied with a procedure. In terms of satisfaction, a patient’s experience can be as important as the quality of the care they receive.

Unfortunately, providers are at a bit of a natural disadvantage; being sick in a hospital bed brings with it a feeling of helplessness for patients. It can be difficult to ease a patient’s concerns about being ill. Achieving this goal requires smart engagement and self-efficacy, helping patients participate directly in the management of their health.

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In other words, entertainment isn’t enough. It’s just a fraction of what patient engagement entails. Satisfaction comes from restoring the feeling that a patient is in control of their life, and that they have power that extends far beyond their present procedure or diagnosis. This philosophy should largely transcend variations across patient populations, as it speaks to a need for agency and empathy that all people share.

Don’t just engage – empower

Patient engagement should be viewed as a strategy as opposed to an action; it’s an approach that focuses on partnership, education and service, and adds to the patient experience as a whole. True patient engagement brings with it genuine value, moving the patient into an empowered role, where they feel more in control over their health and life.

As a pilot test, UK HealthCare adopted patient engagement technology for one of its floors earlier this year. The solution itself is interactive, using the bedside TV to give patients access to staff bios, instructions on care at home and educational information related to their diagnosis. Clinicians were encouraged to find that patients began watching educational content without even being instructed to do so, going so far as to re-watch videos with family members to share what they had learned.

Having access to something as simple as a photo and some basic information about a doctor or nurse made the care experience less scary for patients. Similarly, knowing more about a diagnosis and how to manage a condition places power and control back in their hands. Instead of a nurse simply explaining discharge instructions, now patients are able to explore their health on their own, taking a more active role in their care and becoming better informed to have conversations with their care team.

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Further, UK HealthCare’s patient engagement solution also provides patients with entertainment: TV, movies, social media access and more. Those who face a long-term hospital stay found their burnout eased thanks to the connection to the outside world brought by the patient engagement solution. And, since this solution also contains valuable education and adherence information, it’s a win-win for health and happiness alike.

In a similar scenario, Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif., uses patient engagement technology to support their medication teaching efforts and improve the care experience. Integrating their interactive patient care (IPC) and electronic health record (EHR) systems, the hospital standardizes education in a personalized way—empowering patients to understand the medications prescribed just for them, while documenting the education for clinicians and providing a window into the impact of that education on all of their patients.

To ensure medication teaching is part of the patient care routine, Community Regional took the important step of engaging leadership, nursing and pharmacists in incorporating new workflows into clinical practice. Now, when patients are prescribed a new medication, they receive a prompt on the bedside TV to review what has been prescribed for them, what side effects are possible and any special precautions to take. Nurses then perform “teach back” education to ensure that patients comprehend the information.

Pairing interactive education with reinforcement by the bedside nurse helped transform medication teaching for the hospital, and, in turn, their patients’ satisfaction with their experience. Community Regional saw improvements for HCAHPS measures related to patients’ understanding of their medications and feelings about whether staff communicated well. The key was to engage staff and patients in a way that made them partners in the care process.

 The real challenge to solving the patient + engagement = satisfaction equation is to recognize that “engagement” means more than just making a patient feel occupied. Granted, passing the time during a hospital stay is no easy task, and entertainment has value in taking one’s mind off of things. However, those looking to improve patient satisfaction scores should take a fresh look at the full patient experience: engaging patients in a genuine way that makes them feel informed, and, most of all, heard. Often, a good service is one that provides a two-way channel of control and communication, which is precisely the goal of proper patient engagement.

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When a patient is educated, and feels a sense of agency over their own health, a rise in satisfaction is an outcome providers can expect to see.

Michael O’Neil, Jr., Founder and CEO, GetWellNetwork

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