Finding Quick Wins by Creating Amazing Patient Experiences
In this environment, it is important to demonstrate quick wins for your HealthIT projects. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate improvements in patient experience. Don’t worry, even infrastructure projects can help create amazing patient experiences.
Patient experience is very important right now. Competition is intensifying and patient experience is one of the key factors influencing where people go to receive care. The better your organizations’ patient experience ratings, the more likely patients are to come through the doors. Improving patient experience is, therefore, one of the best ways to help your organization improve its bottom line.
There are many ways that patient experience can be improved:
- Minimize wait times
- Offer “consumer-like” conveniences – like online appointment booking, electronic communication with clinicians, video discharge instructions, etc.
- Provide convenient access to medical records
- Treat patients with empathy and respect
- Streamline administrative workflows/processes
- Reduce stress and frustration on clinical staff
The last two items in the list are often overlooked by healthcare organizations, yet I would argue they represent some of the biggest opportunities to improve patients experience. Luckily streamlining workflows and reducing staff frustration are two areas where Healthcare IT departments can have a positive impact.
With healthcare budgets under pressure from changing reimbursement models and rising operating costs, it is harder than ever to build and sustain support for HealthIT projects. IT leaders need to show that their project will have a positive impact and demonstrate quick wins or risk having their projects cut. Thankfully, linking your project to improved patient experience isn’t difficult. It just requires a little forethought and elbow grease.
As an example, consider the “lowly” single-sign-on project (SSO) – implementing a tool that consolidates user credentials into a single platform. In most organizations this type of project is met with glazed eyes and is viewed as purely an endeavor by IT to upgrade the hospital’s infrastructure. As such, it is an easy project to cut. However, this project does have an impact on clinical staff. SSO can eliminate the need for users to log into each application separately, a significant frustration and time waster. Even better, most SSO platforms today include biometric user log-on, eliminating the need to remember complex passwords, another common frustration. When you reduce staff frustration and save them time, it means they are in a better position to provide a better patient experience. It is therefore not a stretch to say that SSO can improve patient experience.
If you look at your HealthIT projects with a patient experience or staff-relief lens, my bet is that you’ll find many can have positive benefits on both. It may take a bit of digging to find the connection but I believe it is there.
Having said that, not all projects will have the same positive impact for your organization. Thus, what’s needed is a way to compare the relative impact of each project so that you can easily see which would provide the biggest bang for your investment.
One way to do this is to use a relative score to compare projects. Below is an example of a simple scoring mechanism you can use.
For each HealthIT project rate them on 0-5 scale with ‘0’ = no impact whatsoever and ‘5’ = a bottle of champagne will be waiting for you at your desk from end-users or patients who are ecstatic with the improvement. To what degree does this project:
1. Improve patient wait times while in the facility?
2. Increase access to medical records for patients?
3. Help patients gain access to information or individuals on their care team?
4. Promote empathy and/or respect for patients?
5. Decrease the total length of stay in the facility?
a) Decrease the paperwork required by staff?
b) Eliminate unnecessary steps in an existing process?
c) Remove a long-standing end-user frustration
d) Give time back to clinicians that they can put towards more productive use?
e) Help improve the work environment for staff?
The first set of numbered questions are directly related to the patient experience, while the second set of lettered questions are related to staff improvements. Each project should have two scores, one for direct patient impact and the other for staff impact.
The questions above are by no means exhaustive and you should include criteria that is most relevant to your organization. For example, if your organization has placed an emphasis on 5-star online ratings, then you should add that question to the set of numbered questions.
Please keep in mind that this scoring mechanism is only meant to help you compare projects relative to one another. It is not meant to be a universal standard for scoring IT projects in healthcare.
Once you have scored your projects, rank them in descending order and you will get a sense as to which ones potentially provide the biggest patient experience impact. Those are the ones that will be more easily justified AND are the ones most likely to gain inter-departmental support. PRO TIP: Don’t just evaluate the projects yourself, ask other department leaders/stakeholders to score your projects too and incorporate their scores into the overall rankings.
Assessing the impact on patient experience and staff stress is just the first step. Once your project gets green-lit you now have to show your project can produce quick wins. This is where the elbow grease comes in. Take the questions where the project scored 3 or higher and turn those questions into a survey. Have patients and staff use the same 0-5 scoring system to provide feedback to you BEFORE the project starts so that you have a baseline. Then use the same survey to get feedback on the project at appropriate milestones (you don’t always have to wait until the end).
You may encounter some resistance to polling patients, but the survey need not be a formal document. You could simply ask staff to ask patients what they think of the project (ie: Mr. Smith, on a scale of 0-5, what do you think of our new portal’s ability to give you access to your medical record?).
Use the collected data to show the progression of the project and the impact it is having on patients and staff. It is important to share as much information as you can about your project, even if the results aren’t glowing, show that you are taking the feedback and making adjustments.
To learn more about how to assess your HealthIT projects for quick wins and improvements to patient experience, join me on this Thursday November 8th at 2pm ET. This webinar is hosted by AAJ Technologies. Together, myself and Murray Izenwasser of AAJ will be diving deeper into this topic.
About the author:
Colin Hung is a true believer in HealthIT and is passionate about using technology to improve healthcare. Over the last decade, he has helped numerous companies build and market solutions that improve patient safety, patient-provider communications and overall patient experience. Colin is very active on social media. (you can follow him on twitter, here)
Colin co-founded one of the most popular healthcare communities on Twitter – #HCLDR – which brings together patients, clinicians, administrators, and government leaders. Colin has been selected as a HIMSS Social Media Ambassador three times and is recognized as one of the top HealthIT Social Media Influencers. His work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, HospitalEMRandEHR.com and Healthcare Scene.