My name is Heather Wood, and I am a CPXP (certified patient experience professional) and vice president of clinical innovation at eVideon. Over the last three plus decades I have worked in a variety of spaces within healthcare including public and community health where I got my start, as well as corporate wellness, hospital patient education, and healthcare technology. I have specifically worked in healthcare technology and patient experience for more than 20 years which has been a perfect fit blending my range of experience.
Patient engagement and improving the patient experience can mean many different things. What does it mean to you?
To me, because of my focus, it means using smart technology to provide personalized information along with very well-developed education, delivered to patients and their loved ones in order to improve their self-health efficacy, as well as their ability to have more meaningful discussions with their healthcare providers, and ultimately their ability to care for themselves as best as possible.
For the best possible outcomes, technology driven patient education and information should:
- Be delivered to the device the patient feels most comfortable using
- Share targeted information and education specific to the patient’s current stage of care, the information and education should include the ability to be repeated and shared. The information should be short, specific, digestible, and written at/about a 5th grade reading level and is available in the patients preferred language.
- Deliver education and information in real-time to maintain consistency and minimize the nurse’s burden. In doing so, nurses will have more time to provide quality bedside care – which will result in greatly improved patient experiences and when possible, better health outcomes.
- Offer easy access to relaxation and entertainment content in order to ease patient stress levels which allows for better rest and sleep, and overall facilitate a more positive experience.
- Be interoperable. All shared information must be a consistent and accurate across all technologies and come from the source of truth.
- Provide the ability for patients and loved ones to easily connect with technology so they can see and hear each other when they cannot be together. Given the pandemic, patient engagement should also prioritize patient interactions with their support systems. Video visits created just for healthcare are critical to care – especially for end-of-life and isolation.
- The ability to use technology to provide real time service recovery and offering service requests that go directly to the service line being requested, without adding to the nurse’s steps.
As you see it, what are the gaps or missed opportunities in patient engagement?
Patient engagement technology has become a “have to have” instead of what used to be a nice to have. The most significant gap is not all healthcare organizations, across the continuum of care, have invested in a technology platform that offers their patients, loved ones and their staff easy access to consistent, efficient and effective education, information, communication and entertainment/relaxation. Starting small is completely okay, having a solid technology platform to build on, with a partner who is willing to create with the healthcare team, is critical to easing clinical burden, improving patient experience, and health outcomes. Using a patient experience platform also improves the confidence patients, and the community have in the healthcare organization by demonstrating that they are using the most innovative ways to care for their patients.
Patient-centered care has been a growing trend in healthcare – what should hospital leaders be considering as they aim to meet these growing expectations?
Technology that can efficiently and effectively deliver meaningful whole person care. Capabilities such as delivering results with relevant patient education materials included, service requests that are sent directly to the appropriate department so the nurse call is activated less, real-time surveys for real-time service recovery, interoperability to minimize repeated documentation that allows for more bedside care, and yes, a solid relaxation and entertainment platform to meet the demands of whole person care is very important. Placing the patient at the center of communication where they have current information to help them make the best decisions for themselves, give them the tools to be a contributing member, not just waiting to be told what to do. And doing this without adding to the care teams required actions.
Are their administrative and clinical benefits to keeping patients engaged in their care journeys? Explain.
Building off of my previous response, when you engage patients in their care journey and empower them with educational information, communication tools and provide them with relaxation and entertainment options, the benefits extend beyond the patient themselves. These types of services and capabilities help to streamline clinical data and service requests, freeing up nurses to focus on their clinical responsibilities and work at the top of their license.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted care management and delivery? Are their best practices or tools healthcare organizations can tap into in order to enhance patient experience and minimize clinical burden?
COVID has pushed everyone in healthcare to think differently. It is has made using technology even more critical when caring for patients. Technology allows for consistent communication with the patient and loved ones at a safe distance. Using video visits can help the care team staff save PPE, while at the same time making sure the patient knows they are being cared for. Seeing their care team’s faces and that non-verbal interaction is so critical to how the patients assess how they are being cared for. Video visits are helping to decrease loneliness during required isolation.
Another side effect of the pandemic is that loved ones are calling into the nurse’s station for each patient multiple times a day for updates – I have heard as many as five to 13 times per day per patient. Using technology to open the patient’s virtual room, can decrease that significantly and free nurses to provide better care, but allows the very important patient family connection to occur.
It goes without saying, but staff satisfaction has been impacted drastically since the pandemic – nurses and physicians do not want to see their patients alone; this is having a very significant impact on them personally and professionally. Therefore, when staff can help their patients see and speak with their loved ones, it eases their pain as well. And yes, having good TV, movies and overall entertainment to offer patients to use as distraction therapy, that eases the emotional pain of COVID isolation as well.
Even when patients are non-responsive, giving staff the ability to invite the patients loved ones to a virtual visit room is very meaningful for everyone. We have stories where a patient who was non-responsive for days, and once the virtual room was opened and the family started to speak with their loved one, the patient responded to them. The impact technology can make during a pandemic, is helping beyond what I can describe. Making it as easy and non-disruptive as possible has to be a priority.
Though the pandemic is creating huge challenges across the continuum of care, it is also exposing opportunities for innovation. Are you seeing examples of this? If so, please explain.
The first thing we all saw was telehealth and virtual visits being critical to quality of care. The part of this that also became apparent was that common tools such as Teams, Zoom, Skype etc. were not ideal because they require accounts to be set up, software to be downloaded and for patients to remember usernames and passwords. Nurses began having to provide IT support. In response to this challenge, we responded by creating virtual visit technology that requires none of those barriers, is HIPAA compliant, and allows patients to connect with loved ones and even staff.
Using technology to fill in any of the in-person communication gaps took off. But, making it meaningful, intuitive, engaging, easy and ensuring the technology is used in a specific way to help patients feel like they are being cared for and are not just another patient, is what makes the difference.
What would you say to a hospital or medical facility looking to take a more technological approach to care?
Find a partner that offers a strong platform and can collaborate with your team to help build what is most important to meet your organizations specific needs. As the pandemic has shown us, needs change, so having an expert partner in patient education, engagement and experience – who understands whole person care, who knows how to develop and grow at the correct speed with your healthcare organizations goals in mind, will provide a long-term patient environment that exceeds basic care, decreases staff burnout and improves care efficiently and effectively.