Better, Safer Healthcare Stories Are Inspired By Technology

Better, Safer Healthcare Stories Are Inspired By Technology

Guest post by Steven Jackson, chief operating officer, ExperiaHealth.

Every patient story is unique with engaging plots, complicated characters, emotional twists and turns, but more often than not there is a recurring theme.  Somewhere in the healthcare narrative there are gaps in communication. In fact, according to the Joint Commission, an estimated 80 percent of medical errors are caused by breakdowns in communication.

Whether the disconnect is between internal and external care teams, a patient and a nurse, or in my case, a family member and a physician, any missed or misunderstood care directives can leave the patient and the health system vulnerable.

I was certainly feeling vulnerable when I arrived home after taking my son to the doctor and met my wife immediately at the door asking, “What did the doctor say?” As I recollected the physician visit and details of my dialogue with the doctor, I quickly realized I wouldn’t have all the answers she wanted to hear. I remembered most of the instructions, which I paraphrased quite succinctly. However, my wife, who is a very caring mother with a fondness for details, wanted to know exactly what the doctor said.

A similar story was told by a colleague. He described how his father was discharged from a local hospital after suffering a heart attack. At discharge, while tired and stressed from being in the hospital, his father and mother were given 30 minutes of clinical, complex information detailing his post-hospital care and medication needs. Later, when the couple tried recalling the discharge instructions to relay to my colleague, they each remembered the directives very differently – a misunderstanding that put his father at risk for an adverse event.

The CDC reports that nine out 10 adults who receive medical advice find it incomprehensible and do not know what to do to take care of themselves – creating a revolving door for institutions.

Stats and stories like these, as well as looming penalties for performance, are driving the development of innovative healthcare applications and patient portals that improve patient and family engagement, understanding and compliance of discharge instructions and other care directives. These same technologies are also improving patient safety and satisfaction, ultimately driving HCAHPS scores up and avoidable re-admissions down.

Cullman Regional Medical Center in Alabama recently reported a 63 percent increase in HCAPHS scores for questions related to discharge communication and a 15 percent reduction in re-admissions after re-engineering its discharge process using the Good to Go solution by ExperiaHealth. Good to Go blends multimedia technology with healthcare best practices to engage caregivers, patients and families in the care plan during and after a hospital stay.

During hospital discharge, Cullman Regional caregivers use smart devices and the HIPAA/HITECH compliant Good to Go application running on the device to capture “live” care instructions at the patient’s bedside. After the discharge session, the nurse asks the patient to listen to the captured communication, and a dialog between the caregiver and patient occurs to clarify any confusion. This conversation is also captured by the application, adapting discharge instructions in the patient’s own words and breaking down health literacy barriers. The recorded audio instructions are then made available 24/7 for the patient, family or a subsequent caregiver to listen to and review from any landline phone, mobile device or computer using unique login credentials.

In addition to audio instructions, caregivers use the solution to attach instructional videos, images and documents and post those educational resources on the patient’s personal Good to Go website to improve compliance and reduce risks. For example, if a patient has congestive heart failure, a caregiver can use the solution to capture images of baseline swelling in the patient’s leg to help him or her monitor and manage their condition. Follow-up appointments and medication lists can also be managed in one location via the patient’s personalized Good to Go website.

With access to live care instructions and multimedia education, a couple can leave the hospital feeling secure about the discharge plan, and a father can be confident replying to an inquiry by his wife after their son’s physician visit. Hospital caregivers can also feel better because they can use the solution’s monitoring tool tracks if and when patients access their instructions, allowing Cullman Regional to gauge compliance and identify potential risks for bounce backs. This valuable information also plays a vital role in performance analytics and patient follow-up call management available via the Good to Go solution, which helps unify quality, safety and satisfaction initiatives.

By taking advantage of technology already in use and at the fingertips of caregivers, patients and families, hospitals like Cullman Regional are creating impressive last impressions and extending care beyond the hospital walls. And while technology cannot replace human interaction, it can certainly help enhance the exchange and create market differentiation as well as lasting loyalty – especially for those patients whose journeys were safer because there were no communication gaps along the way.

Healthcare stories with seamless transitions are the ones with the best endings.

Healthcare and Hospital Leaders: It’s Time to Engage In Social Media, Damn the Consequences

As we move toward an environment in which technology is more widely accepted, there’s little doubt tools that organizations like hospitals and health systems (individuals, too, for that matter) use to build their brands, educate their communities and engage patients are paying dividends.

At least for the organizations taking steps to utilize the tools.

According to a new survey by CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) conducted in July and August, of 36 hospitals, the use of social media in the space is growing, and having some positive effects on the communities each serves.

In the survey, hospitals reported using social media to enhance their brands, create awareness and manage their reputations, as well as “to promote wellness and healthy behaviors through the dissemination of generic information for a general audience.”

CSC found that for organizations, direct engagement with individual patients remains uncommon and only one hospital reported that it uses social media in care coordination or care management, unlike some individual caregivers who actually use the tools to engage patient populations with generic care instruction or knowledge transfer.

Healthcare organizations, like all of us using social media, want to attract a large audience to our message and products. However, using social media for improved patient outcomes were not a popular objective according to the survey as less than 25 percent of organizations listing it as a primary objective.

Only a couple hospitals survey said they did not use social media at all, citing fear of liability or malpractice concerns, and concerns that users would post negative comments about the organization while some organizations do not get involved in social media because they do not feel they have the internal expertise needed to drive the program.

Now the real heavy lifting begins.

According to CSC, “The next step for hospitals and health systems will be to use social media more strategically. The risk and cost of doing so is relatively small, yet the upside includes potentially substantial performance improvements and the realization of sizable competitive advantages.”

Beyond building brands and managing messages, healthcare organizations may wish to think about more their products, long-term goals like driving patient engagement and improving healthcare outcomes.

To take action and begin moving a social media and engagement program forward, CSC recommends the following, and I quote:

We’re here now, we’re ready and the tools are available to serve the greater good. It’s time to engage, damn the consequences.