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Sustainable Patient Experience Improvement Strategies

Sustainable Patient Experience Improvement Strategies

Gary M. Tomcik, MHA

Senior Director – Healthcare Experience

As we navigate through the COVID Delta Variant, the question for anyone leading the PX journey remains the same – what are the strategies that should be deployed to ensure that patients and their family members are receiving the best possible care and services?

Before we investigate various strategies for supporting today’s service challenges, it is important to summarize what we learned during the COVID 19 pandemic. In general, when healthcare organizations reacted to the COVID 19 pandemic, they adjusted their operations by tightening their infection control guidelines, eliminating patient visitation and adjusting employee protocols to ensure the safest possible environment for their patients and staff. These changes led to an overall reduction in the amount of patient communications. Staff interactions were limited to “essential” encounters and patients. In addition, the use of PPE apparel helped to dehumanize the patient encounter. As a result, patient anxiety increased as they received less compassionate communication from their care providers and remained
isolated from their loved ones during the bulk of their hospital experience.

 

It is interesting that during this period the healthcare industry noted changes in the patient’s expectations of care and services. The following insight was pulled out of a recent article by Thomas Lee, MD the Chief Medical Officer for Press Ganey. “Also important will be the process of care, not just the amenities. COVID-19 has sparked a change in patient satisfaction trends, with patients being far more grateful for receiving quality care that is empathic rather than for the bells and whistles. The good news is that patients appreciate that this is a crisis.”

Using the above information as foundational learnings and combining it with insight gained from PX and Service leaders across the country, I have noted below a total of three (3) “must have” strategies for ensuring the delivery of an optimal patient experience during this COVID Delta Variant period:

• Establish expectations of service delivery and standards of care with all patients/family members and ensure that these are being met.
• Utilize an effective service recovery process, via sustainable communication pathways, to identify and address service deficiencies.
• Use real-time patient insights to understand service delivery opportunities and translate those learnings into actionable strategies for immediately improving your care and services.

The following is a deeper dive into each of these strategies, including how to package these in a comprehensive platform that leverages science and technology while increasing the efficiency of your leaders/staff.

1. Establish expectations of service delivery and standards of care with all patients/family members and ensure that these are being met.


Purposeful patient rounding is an evidence-based approach for establishing expectations of service delivery and standards of care with patients and their family members. For this interaction to be purposeful, the general assumption is that the conversation is to be delivered in a conversational format rather than a typical “survey style” interaction.


Initially, the individual who is rounding begins the dialogue by delivering conversational techniques that supports building a relationship with the patient. Once a level of comfort is established, the rounder will use a “give and take” approach to completing the round. Noted below is graphic that illustrates the give and take approach, keeping in mind that this process begins with stating the organization’s key service expectations and then seeking feedback as to if those expectations are being met.

GIVE & TAKE - APPROACH


Give:
Hello my name is _____ from the _____. I am here to introduce you to some of the services provided here at _____ that will help to ensure your personal safety, care, comfort, and well-being.

  • You are staying on the _____ floor

  • On this unit the nurses work _____ hour shifts and typically care for _____ patients/rooms

  • You should see your nurse or clinical technician no less than once per hour during the day and every other hour during the nighttime

  • For your safety and comfort, on the shi change your nursing team will conduct a patient handoff in front of you, and update your care board


Take:

  • Are you comfortable with the care you are receiving from your nurses and doctors?

  •  Are you seeing your nurse/technician every hour?

  • Are you being introduced to your incoming nurse?

  • Do you understand what is being done to care for you and the medications you are being given?

Give:

  • If you need anything while you are here, please contact us here

- Courtesy of Advocor AI Infused Patient Rounding Platform

Many organizations will also augment their purposeful rounding practices by using scripting. Scripting provides the rounder with a set of talking points. These talking points help to reduce the stress associated with purposeful patient rounding and ensure that consistent messages are being delivered across your organization. When a purposeful round is delivered correctly, the patient will feel appreciated by having the opportunity to communicate their feelings and more importantly understand that the organization truly cares about them.


As you close your purposeful rounds and before you leave the area, an industry best practice is to communicate some of your findings with the nursing staff and support personnel who are aligned to that geographic unit. Caregivers, support team members and leaders truly appreciate hearing the positive things the patients are saying about the care and services received. Receiving this positive feedback will also open the door to strong purposeful patient rounds as staff will be anxious to hear what their patients are saying.


One obvious challenge to purposeful patient rounding is how we interact/communicate with patients in isolation/COVID restrictions? Many organizations have transitioned to rounds via phone, however, a solution to this challenge has already been brought to the market by Advocor. With AdvoCor Optimus you can use their insights platform to support direct patient
communication via text messages regardless of their medical status. This functionality reduces exposure and increases safety for patients, family members and employees while helping to set expectations of care/service and respond to requests. These “secured” digital conversations can be managed internally and then tracked for effectiveness.

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2. Utilize an effective Service Recovery process, via sustainable communication pathways, to identify and address service deficiencies.
 

Service recovery is the process of resolving any patient concerns during their stay, and before they leave, before customers complain or before they leave the service encounter dissatisfied. During purposeful patient rounds you may uncover instances when you are not meeting the expectations of care and services to your patients. This insight is extremely valuable and should trigger the execution of your organization’s service recovery system.
 

Most organizations have either a manual or electronic service recovery system in place. A manual system is very labor dependent as it relies on the employee to capture, analyze, and report the relevant tracking information. This includes, but is not limited to, the date of the incident, area, issue, root cause, owner, corrective action and follow up date. The form is routinely monitored by leadership to ensure the desired service recovery actions have been completed. Periodically, a follow-up analysis is completed so the organization can understand compliance to service recovery goals and look for trends.
 

An electronic service recovery system is not labor dependent, as the employee is only required to capture the relevant service recovery information on the digital platform. All follow up actions and reminder notifications are automatically sent by the system. In addition, no manual analysis is required for understanding opportunities. Reports are available “on demand” for tracking and trending service recovery and root cause issues. When these strategies are implemented, you will have the confidence that these actions will support improving the perceptions of today’s patients rather than driven by outdated perceptions that include some selection bias.

 

3. Use real-time patient insights to understand service delivery opportunities and translate those learnings into actionable strategies for immediately improving your care and services.
 

Early in my career, I learned a saying from an expert in the field of healthcare quality, he said “Gary, always keep in mind that you cannot fatten a calf by putting it on a scale.” I.E. Measuring something does not improve it. That saying translates into summarizing the actions for the third noted strategy. Yes, it is important to have purposeful patient conversations; however, you must translate those learnings from insightful conversations into strategies that will drive your patient experience improvement efforts.
 

As staffing levels and budgets continue to tighten it is important to be as efficient as possible when implementing your patient improvement strategy. To set the table, you will need a comprehensive strategy that offers a wide array of functionality to take advantage of available operational efficiencies. Manual strategies require large amounts of hours that most organizations cannot spare and/or cannot afford as well as technology solutions which, while valuable, can become disjointed if being run via many disparate systems. A singular platform strategy for patient experience is therefore the most effective; this strategy will reduce work hours and help streamline costs. The challenge is to find a platform that provides an immediate feedback look that is allowing your organization to respond with actionable intent while patients are in house. This is a far more effective strategy than post-incident analysis and corrective action.
 

One such system that offers this functionality begins with guidance for prioritizing which patients need to be seen. Yes, in a perfect world, we would like to interact with every patient every day; however, that is not economically feasible in today’s world. As illustrated below, through the integration of data science and technology, AdvoCor has altered the traditional survey style rounding process with the use of an AI (Augmented Intelligence) infused platform. This web-based platform integrates third-party patient experience results, current purposeful rounding insight and EHR data to predict the concerns of your patients before they occur and enables you to more effectively communicate with them to mitigate said concerns.
 

Because AdvoCor offers these core features for supporting a deeper understanding of patient perceptions, the AdvoCor PEX platform is being used in over 300 hundred healthcare organizations across the country to anchor their patient experience improvement strategy.

To summarize, the healthcare industry has seen significant changes in patient perceptions during the COVID 19 pandemic. Going forward, we will need to keep a pulse on the expectations of service and care for today’s patients. New strategies need to be flexible enough to keep operational efficiency in the worst of times (COVID), yet require limited interaction via human interface to keep costs down. Until now this was not possible given the market available tools for patient experience research, operations, and administration. While many market available platforms offer some of the solutions necessary to meet these outlined strategies, they all, including our AdvoCor Platform, fell short when resources where pulled and patient FaceTime was reduced due to the pandemic.

To address this opportunity, AdvoCor has recently released a patient experience automated rounding assistant called Optimus. Optimus can be used as a standalone rounding initiative or be integrated in to augment your current strategies. Optimus can guarantee an attempted round on 100% of the targeted patient demographic, delivering custom patient-centric information for each patient and opening an asynchronous direct line of communication between the PX team and the patient and/or their families. Optimus truly brings sustainability to your patient experience strategies.

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