PatientEngagementHIT

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Health IT Communication Tools Key for Quality Patient Experience

At Yale New Haven Health System hospitals, providers build strong patient experience through robust health technology.

By Sara Heath

For Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS), a well-connected health IT infrastructure with a focus on communication and patient engagement tools has pulled double duty: not only does it help clinicians deliver a high quality patient experience, but it has also landed the health system’s three hospitals on this year’s “Most Wired” list for technology-driven organizations.

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YNHHS’s focus on patient engagement tools, ranging from real-time surveys and telemedicine to patient portals and educational materials, has helped to reduce barriers to care access, improve satisfaction, and facilitate communication.

PatientEngagementHIT.com spoke with YNHHS’s interim Chief Information Officer, Lisa Stump, andChief Patient Engagement Officer, Michael Bennick, MD, about the health system’s approach to improving the patient experience.

“When we think about technology in the enhancement of the patient experience, we look at a couple of different approaches,” said Stump, who is also affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine.

“One is to equip our clinicians and our staff with information about our patients that helps them deliver a better care experience. So that ranges from how well a patient experienced our care to information about the patient themselves, what’s important to them and their health.”

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Real-time surveys reward quality interactions

One tool the health system uses is called Humm, a real-time patient satisfaction feedback survey deployed through a bedside tablet. Humm helps the care team gather data on room cleanliness, noise levels, and patient interactions with nurses and provider care teams.

“It allows us to get real-time feedback from our patients while the care is still happening,” Stump explained. “By getting that data in real time, displaying it in a meaningful way for the staff and the nurses on the unit, we’re able to correct what might be a dissatisfier to the patient immediately, or as close to immediately as we possibly can.”

These benefits go both ways, said Bennick, who also leads the system’s Patient Experience Council. Patients can communicate when staff are doing a good job, helping to boost morale and drive home the importance of ensuring that patients are having the best possible experience.

“It has allowed us to be more nimble in acknowledging and rewarding successes, like when a patient wants to tell us that Nurse Sally or Nurse Jim has done an incredible job in making them feel safe or comfortable,” Bennick explained.

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“It generates a ‘hey, good job,’ and makes people feel positive about feedback and sees it as an insight into not only how we improve but in how we reward and recognize those who are doing it right.”

Using population health to improve care access

Beyond understanding the patient and his or her needs at the point of care, Yale New Haven Health System is also dedicated to driving patient engagement to achieve population health management goals. These efforts, Stump says, are rooted in making their services easy to access.

“When we think about people, those consumers and the pursuit of health -as a healthcare organization we need to be engaging and interacting with folks long before they require one of our physicians or procedural centers or hospitals,” Stump said.

By using population data, YNHHS is able to target their service offerings to the right patient groups, making it easy for patients to know what kind of treatment they can find at the health system and how to reach it.

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“So from a healthcare IT perspective, that starts to raise the bar around the data that we use to understand those populations,” Stump explained. “That starts to allow us to deliver communications, messages, services, that help those consumers to interact with us in a manner that’s promoting health rather than treating an illness.”

Translating satisfaction into better outcomes

Instead of simply trying to make a patient happy – a difficult feat, Stump and Bennick said – YNHHS is focused on making care as easy to access and respectful as possible. While a provider may not be able to make a patient happy after a bleak diagnosis, they can make their treatment more accessible.

“We don’t see this as making patients happy. That’s not what patient satisfaction is about,” Bennick asserted.

“What it really is about is how we smooth the interaction for both our patients who are seeking our assistance as well as our caregivers to be in a position to provide them with the assistance that they require in a timely fashion that is respectful of needs.”

To pursue this goal, YNHHS is employing tools like telemedicine, which not only help deliver care to hard-to-reach patients, but can also boost provider-to-provider communication. This kind of collaboration helps different members of the health system identify and deliver the best course of care for specific patient needs.

The health system has also employed patient portals, which can educate patients on their specific health status, and multimedia tools that explain the importance of certain preventative and maintenance treatments.

When patients receive this kind of health education, the pair explained, it becomes easier for them to know how to self-manage their particular conditions. Educational tools help diabetics learn when to get eye exams or foot screenings, for example.

At YNHHS, all of these efforts rely on health IT. While it is important for providers to make personal connections with their patients, the health system’s technologies help coordinate  care and make it easier for patients to access treatment.

“Rather than burdening our caregivers and burdening our patients, we see that when the technology is good, it will make it easier for both the patients and the provider of care to interact,” Bennick concluded.

“We really look for opportunities for technology to just make it a better, easier, simpler experience,” Stump agreed. “That’s not always just making the patients happy. A more efficient method of care is often just less worry or inconvenience for our patients.”

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