In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, healthcare professionals are making their own patient-centered care goals for 2017.
But while New Year’s Resolutions typically fall by the wayside after a period of time, it’s likely these healthcare pros won’t let that happen for them. With value-based and patient-centered care initiatives taking the industry spotlight this year, providers will need to focus on driving patient engagement more than ever.
PatientEngagementHIT.com spoke with several healthcare professionals, from clinicians to thought leaders, to find out their patient-centered care New Year’s Resolutions. These goals run the gamut of leveraging health technology more efficiently to guiding the industry toward fostering better patient satisfaction by keeping patients safer.
Improving health IT for a positive patient experience
Health technology adoption has increased this year, including in the patient care domain. Patient portal adoption reached just over 90 percent this year, the American Hospital Association reported, and several other providers have turned to innovative health tools to improve patient care.
John Tiberi, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacements, is one provider turning to health IT to engage his patients. Tiberi utilizes a messaging and education tool to help his surgery patients prepare for the procedure and better understand their care.
Going into 2017, Tiberi hopes to learn how to even better leverage this technology to improve patient care.
“I’ve spent the better part of this year becoming familiar with using the tools. Now that I have a fair amount of experience with it, what can I do to make the efficiency for care even better?” he said.
Tiberi hopes increasing efficiency will make the treatment process more convenient for his patients, ultimately improving patient satisfaction.
“My practice draws patients from a larger geographic area,” he explained. “Some patients, especially those that come from quite a distance for surgery, are oftentimes really happy that they may not need to visit the office if it’s not necessary. That’s not to say I don’t want to see my patients again, but what can I do to maximize both my time and the patient’s time?”
Focusing on patient-provider communication
For Matthew Vitaska, Administrator of Outcomes, Effectiveness, and Patient Experience at Centura Health Physicians Group, patient-centered care will focus on communication in 2017.
After extensive research, Vitaska and his patient experience team have decided to work with individual providers to pinpoint strategies that can help them better communicate and build relationships with their patients.
“We’ve looked at the literature and innovated around that, and what we’re going to offer to our providers this upcoming year is a shadow coach,” Vitaska said. “If their patients are saying, ‘it seems like Dr. Matt isn’t communicating with me effectively,’ what we’ll provide for them per their request is someone on our patient experience team that will come observe [the provider] for a couple of days in the clinic.”
From there, shadow coaches will issue individualized coaching about both verbal and non-verbal communication cues aimed at improving the overall patient experience.
According to Vitaska, this initiative will fill in physician education gaps. Patient-provider communication training might be lacking medical school, Vitaska suggested, meaning that providers don’t acquire the “soft skills” of effectively communicating and building patient relationships.
Streamlining industry perceptions of patient experience
At Press Ganey, Deirdre Mylod, PhD, has reframed how providers think about the patient experience. Instead of thinking about patient experience as the hospitality amenities administrators provide for patients, she and her clients now think of it as reducing patient suffering.
However, according to Mylod, Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation and Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics at Press Ganey, this philosophy is not pervasive throughout the industry. Going into 2017, she would like to change that.
“To me, that puts us in a completely different mindset,” she said.
“When we say patient experience is not in addition to quality, it is not if we have time after we’ve gotten care right,” she continued. “It’s that patient experience is that safety, the quality. It is what patients think of their care. It’s how efficient and effective care is.”
In order to scale that idea, Mylod says the industry needs to open up dialogue and work together to better understand patient experience measures in the context of quality healthcare.
“My personal goal is for the entire industry to embrace the idea that what we’re doing when we take care of patients is reducing their suffering,” she said. “So that means the patient experience measures are integral for understanding the quality of that process.”
Recognizing patient satisfaction as a key outcome
Increasingly, providers are valuing how their patients are treated and their overall experience nearly as much as they are overall outcomes.
For Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, this approach is going to persist throughout the New Year.
“For too long, we separated the quality of care and the experience of being cared for as two separate things,” said Pronovost, a critical care physician and Vice President of Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “In reality, I think most care providers said, ‘my job is to cure and those other things – well, they’re someone else’s job.’”
“If a patient leaves our hospital and says we disrespected them, you better believe that’s a harm, and we have to do something about it,” he continued.
In 2017, Pronovost hopes to improve this disconnect by consulting patients more often. In doing so, Pronovost hopes to determine specific patient-centered care initiatives – informed by and for the patient – that will help eliminate negative patient experiences.
“One is that at a governance level, that we have patients on all of our hospital board committees,” he said. “On a patient care level, I want our caring as big of a focus as our curing. I’d like to have every person leave this hospital saying that they were treated with respect and that they were heard.”