- In an increasingly value-based healthcare industry, more healthcare organizations are seeing reimbursements tied to quality measures, such as patient satisfaction and experience.
But making sure patient satisfaction data yields positive reimbursements presents many challenges. Healthcare organizations must not only collect the requisite number of satisfaction surveys from their patients, but they must also ensure that those surveys reflect a positive experience.
At Panama City Surgery Center, practice administrator Michael Madewell struggled to adjust to this focus on patient satisfaction metrics.
“There’s a number of challenges that we had,” Madewell told PatientEngagementHIT.com. “How do we get patients to complete the satisfaction data? How do we get them to turn that back in? How do we make sure data reflects that the patient had a positive experience?”
Many patients do not return patient satisfaction surveys simply because they don’t go through the necessary paperwork to find the surveys, Madewell said.
“A lot of folks have a whole bundle of paper that they take home post-surgery,” he pointed out. “In that stack of paper you have discharge instructions, copies of their prescriptions, and the satisfaction survey. A lot of times people don’t go through that stack of paper after their surgery.”
And when patients do return the surveys, Madewell says it is critical that they reflect a positive patient experience.
“Healthcare is moving in a direction where part of our reimbursement will be based on the consumer experience and patient satisfaction,” he explained.
And although Madewell noted that Panama City Surgery Center has previously received admirable patient satisfaction scores, he wanted to ensure this trend continued as they gathered more satisfaction survey data.
“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve had, and I think a lot of surgery centers have had, is communicating with the patients and family members early on when they’re in the lobby and waiting to get registered,” Madewell said. “And communicating with those patients after the surgery is complete and they have gone home is also challenging.”
Fostering a positive experience through good communication directly affects family member and caregiver engagement, Madewell asserted. While it is essential to be courteous and empathetic during direct patient care, patients are sedated or undergoing surgery for most of their time at the center. Patients don’t interact much with the care team, especially because most of them have same-day discharges.
“In my experience, a patient’s experience in large part is directly related to their family members’ experiences while they wait,” Madewell said.
“Patient experiences will be dependent upon what their family members say about how they were treated. Were they communicated with in pre-op? Were they given the instructions clearly for family and the patient? Those types of things influence a patient’s satisfaction with their procedures.”
Specifically, Madewell says satisfaction comes from how staff communicates with family members while patients are in surgery. This entails clear communication about surgery progress, at-home instructions, and the check-in and check-out process.
Madewell and his administrative team first tried to improve these processes by placing a staff member in the lobby with family members. This staff member helped facilitate the registration process, and helped relay information from clinicians to family members, driving up family member satisfaction.
While many large hospitals can rely on volunteers to perform this duty, Panama City Surgery Center had to use a paid staff member, presenting financial and logistical issues.
“It was expensive,” Madewell stated. “It didn’t help the family if they wanted to go outside or if they had to run home or run an errand. All of these different things that we tried we had some success with, but none of them did everything.”
Madewell and his team decided to automate the process. Using Jellyfish Health technology, the practice developed a digital registration system.
When patients and their family members arrive at the facility, they check-in with a tablet in the lobby. This tablet produces a unique, four-digit code to securely identify the patient. On a display screen in the lobby, patients and their family members can see prompts to go to the registrar’s desk, or to transfer to another part of the facility, streamlining the registration process.
The technology also automates discharge information and the patient satisfaction surveys. By delivering that information in a digital message upon facility discharge, Madewell and his team have managed to solve their other concern – how to drive the rate of satisfaction survey return.
“We’ve already started to see that our return rate on satisfaction surveys have started to creep up. We’ve always had positive results, but we just didn’t get many back,” Madewell said. “Now we’re still getting positive results and positive comments from family members, but the rate of return is starting to increase.”
While Madewell and his team are seeing positive results, creating an automated patient communication and satisfaction strategy has not always been an easy process. As with any digital health initiative, there was some provider pushback and concern about learning a new system.
“Whenever you do an implementation of a new software, especially with us being a surgery center beta-site for this technology, there were things we had to do differently,” Madewell said.
“The reason we were fairly successful was because we had long discussions with the staff about being a beta site. We told them that we were going to have glitches and to expect it.”
Having discussions about not only the expected challenges, but also the expected benefits, made all of the difference for Madewell.
“When you set those expectations, it is easier to create buy-in because staff realize that they would have to work through the change,” Madewell explained. “Staff also recognize that they can give their input and model the software how they thought it would work best.”
Going forward, Madewell and his team plan to implement the final tools within the Jellyfish suite. Through text messages on a mobile app, family members and caregivers can receive real-time updates from facility administrators about surgery process.
This will solve the lingering problem about family member communication during surgery. Caregivers can receive updates when they leave the facility to get some fresh air or run errands.
Automating these processes has been key, Madewell concluded. Not only do digital tools drive patient experience, but they help collect surveys about that experience.
“We have to show that we are gathering satisfaction information, and that the information is positive,” Madewell said. “We’re not only interested in a positive surgical outcome, but a positive overall experience. It wasn’t until we automated that process and had a solution that touched each of those individual pieces that we felt like we could make a difference.”