The Role of Technology in Patient Satisfaction
There has been a recent shift in healthcare from a fee-for-service environment to a pay-for-performance model. The shift is a good one in most people’s eyes as it focuses more on the patient and the actual results than it does the provider and their services. The performance of a healthcare provider is now evaluated based on patient outcomes (70%) and patient satisfaction (30%) and payments are dependent on performance in both areas. Due to this, healthcare providers are more focused on patient satisfaction, at least from a metrics standpoint, than ever before.
So how is patient experience data gathered and reported? Enter the survey. What is that you ask? “The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care.” It is a required survey in all hospitals now, and the answers patients give matter to the payments received.
There have been many and physicians have on patient satisfaction. Nothing will ever do more for generating comfort than the human touch and a great bedside manner. However, technology can play an important role in assisting the caregiver and increasing patient satisfaction in 3 important ways.
Nothing is more stressful than being in a foreign place where you feel alone and helpless. Moving from the patient room to multiple locations in the facility for radiology, MRIs, blood panels and the like make the experience even more bewildering and uncomfortable. Add to that a sterile white wall or ceiling with nothing to look at and an ear ringing silence and you have nothing to focus on BUT the procedure and itself and any pain and discomfort that may go along with it.
Audio visual technology has been shown to decrease patient anxiety in many procedures, with the combination of soothing sounds and visuals together being greater than the sum of their parts. According to one study in this arena:
The other way to decrease patient anxiety through the use of technology may not be as obvious, but is just as valuable. Patient Education Systems. Nothing can assist the physician or nurse in explaining a potentially complicated medical procedure better than a short video or computer animation that can be accessed in the patient room on the TV. Providing visual aides before a procedure to help the patient understand the upcoming treatment can greatly reduce fear of the unknown and give the patient peace of mind.
Given how central the act of communication is to the human experience, there are many questions on the HCAHPS survey that ask about communication between the patient and staff. Communication can have a profound effect on the impression a patient has of their care, regardless of whether or not their ailment is treated properly. Patients also find some level of comfort in having some control. Being hospitalized leaves many feeling helpless and providing some sense of control to patients alleviates this feeling. In both cases providing the patient with access to both staff and information fulfill these needs.
If a patient has a direct line to the nurse’s station via the call button, creating a video call between the attendant and themselves they can take comfort in the fact that they can express their needs. In cases where specialists may be shared between facilities, patients can also access staff for detailed questions and concerns remotely and efficiently without the barriers of travel time between locations. Finally, access to information on treatments and control of entertainment options during down time also help provide access and control when needed.
Finally, technology also assists in providing more positive patient impressions at the time of discharge. Patient Education Systems as described above allow patients to review discharge instructions, at home treatments, and follow up visit schedules at their leisure when they are most receptive to receiving the information. It has also been shown that information is retained much longer and more accurately when it is presented both visually and audibly. Training organizations like have long understood this phenomenon in promoting better understanding and retention of information. In this case, it means the chances of readmissions also go down, and the digital nature of the information sharing also creates the added bonus of a record of communicating the information to the patient to mitigate any future liability as well.
As you can see, although technology will most likely never be able to replace the human element of patient satisfaction, it can greatly assist the healthcare practitioner in making sure their patients are at ease and are well informed both about the procedures they are about to undergo as well as how to best care for themselves once they are back in the comfort of their own homes. Never before has bedside manner been tied in such a way to the payment of healthcare services, and a small investment in some assistive technology can make the difference in how a patient remembers the experience as a whole.