PatientEngagementHIT

Patient Satisfaction News

How Health IT Improves Hospital Patient Satisfaction Scores

If you effectively implement health IT to streamline clinical workflow, the benefits of higher patient satisfaction scores will follow.

- Western Reserve Hospital used to be one of the many healthcare organizations struggling with heavy emergency department patient volume and a disjointed clinical workflow, all resulting in a lagging patient satisfaction score.

health-it-patient-satisfaction

All that improved, however, after the hospital implemented a suite of new health information technology. Through the use of various different healthcare devices, hospital staff were able to reshape their clinical workflows, streamlining care and improving patient satisfaction.

PatientEngagmentHIT.com recently talked with Western Reserve’s CNO, Carrie Gallo, to discuss the hospital’s patient satisfaction improvement and how health IT and efficient clinical workflow help boost patient experience.

Prior to their McKesson implementation, Gallo said the hospital was struggling with massive ED admissions and an inefficient system for processing them.

“Our satisfaction, as with most hospitals, is a challenge,” Gallo explained. “With any ED, we are faced with the ongoing challenges of varying patient flow, squad traffic, EMS in and out, walk-in traffic, and those other nuances that come in with staffing our Room One, which are more acute patients.”

READ MORE: Only 20% of Patients Use EHR Access to Make Medical Decisions

In seeing those inefficiencies, Western Reserve decided it needed to strategize. Through practice-wide collaboration, leaders developed a set of goals to improve patient experience through better workflow, starting with their health IT adoption.

“Working together with our team, with the staff, with our physician leadership, brought in some dedicated engagement and really started from the ground up and just reevaluated our workflows,” Gallo said.

The welcomed side effect of this EHR and workflow overhaul was improved patient satisfaction. Because the hospital was more organized and better able to manage their patient influx, patients were more at ease and given a better overall experience, Gallo stated.

These improvements were best felt in the ED, where technology helped streamline the admissions process by enabling more clear and immediate communication between ED staff and EMS staff.

“With the McKesson technology, we implemented an EMS squad board that is right at the door when the EMS comes in and enters in, and lets them know what room the patient is going to,” Gallo explained.

READ MORE: Why Most Patients at VCU Health Approve of the Patient Portal

Prior to their technology overhaul, the ED admissions process was very manual and slow-going. EMS staff communicated with nurses upon arrival to the hospital, and patients and families were often asked to wait before they finally were admitted into some sort of hospital room.

Now, patients are able to come right in from the ambulance, all thanks to hospital technology. By displaying EMS squad instructions on an electronic board upon arrival, staff can funnel patients quickly through the admissions process right into treatment.

“Now, they’re entering in the easy entrance, right at the EMS entrance, and voila – they have by their squad name and number of the room that they go to,” Gallo said. “Now, they’re going directly to the room, the doors are open so the nurse or paramedic staff that we have are there greeting the patient.”

Speeding up the ED admissions process was a clear-cut fix to help Western Reserve really improve upon its patient satisfaction scores. The overhaul made the admissions process more seamless and less stressful, creating a better environment for patients.

“Right out of the gate from our satisfaction at arrival, which we had an opportunity to improve on, right then from the patient and the EMS perspective, they’re seeing a very seamless move- to the room,” Gallo noted.

READ MORE: Can Digital Communication, mHealth Boost Patient Satisfaction?

“No stopping, no delay, no waiting on the stretcher, no family waiting. It looks very, very seamless and we look very organized. So from that perspective, right out of the gate, patient arrival was one of the opportunities around our satisfaction scores that was a lower score.”

The patient-centered benefits of health IT do not end with ED admissions, either. Introducing technology into Western Reserve helped the hospital improve on patient safety by requiring providers to go through a series of safety best practices in order to conduct a certain test or administer a certain medication.

“What we also learned, which I appreciate the technology from, is identifying the shortcuts that everyone does when they’re doing things over and over and over,” Gallo stated. “In that paper world pre-technology, as humans you had all of those steps in. But what we’ve found and what literature will tell you, you get lazy. You take those shortcuts.”

The technologies have also helped streamline workflows past the ED and throughout the rest of the hospital. Because most tasks are somewhat automated, providers are able to more efficiently send and receive information and are less apt to get stuck on certain hurdles.

Although this technology implementation did produce several workflow benefits, it did not come without its challenges. Maintaining patient and provider satisfaction throughout such an expansive hospital overhaul was a key issue that Western Reserve leaders faced.

“The negative is really early in the implementation, and we’ve overcome it, and that was just where the user of the technology gets so focused on the technology that they forget that there’s a patient right in the bay,” Gallo recalled. “And that, like any implementation we had, we experienced and had to overcome.”

Since implementation, Western Reserve has overcome that barrier. Through various training sessions, along with a healthy dose of physician trial and error, Western Reserve staff have reportedly grown comfortable with the technology and are better able to use it to engage with their patients and bolster satisfaction.

“It came down to just a comfort level with the technology,” Gallo said. “The care of the patient is still the same. Those basic needs of the patients are still the same.”

For Gallo, health technology use always funneled down into that central mantra: use the technology to facilitate what is best for the patient. By putting the patient first and viewing the technology as an aid, Western Reserve staff were able to both streamline their clinical workflows and improve their quality of care while building upon their patient satisfaction.

“And I always go back and use the standard question when we’re in a workgroup,” Gallo concluded. “Let’s step back, and remove the technology and say, ‘how do we need to care for the patient?’ The technology is an assistant. We still have to take care of the patient.”