Does engaging hospital patients and their families in the care process improve the odds of high-quality care and good outcomes? Healthcare organizations, payers and regulators think so. In fact, the proposed rule for Stage 2 Meaningful Use places a strong emphasis on patient engagement and satisfaction (HCAHPS surveys) as a means of improving health. Innovative technology now enables organizations to bring patient-centered, interactive patient care to the bedside and across the care continuum to engage patients in the care process and better connect patients and their caregivers.

Engaging patients throughout their hospital journey – with education as well as entertainment – empowers them to take an active role in their health and well-being. It’s also an opportunity to enable patients to provide interactive feedback to their caregivers. By encouraging patient feedback and influencing patient behaviors, providers can promote a more positive hospital experience and better overall health.

I know because I took that journey myself. As a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, under treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I recognized firsthand the need for patients to be more involved in their care. Guided by my experience, I developed an interactive patient care solution that focused on helping improve patient outcomes through educating the patient and family, and providing a patient feedback loop to engage them in the care process with their caregivers.

Engaging the Patient

The idea is to engage patients and put them in the middle of their healthcare, rather than on the outside looking in. The greater their understanding – of their condition, their medications, their care plan and their discharge instructions – the more likely they’ll be able to take better care of themselves and reduce the chance they’ll wind up back in the hospital. At the same time, enabling them to provide specific feedback that is visible to caregivers can help improve the responsiveness of care and alert caregivers to a patient need.

Using all that today’s technology has to offer – television, computers, iPad, other mobile devices and the Internet – hospitals can:

  • Automate care processes, such as patient education and pain assessments
  • Provide patients access to information regarding their care
  • Engage patients to provide feedback on their experience, preferences, satisfaction, etc.
  • Educate patients about their condition, their medications and their discharge instructions

Connecting the Caregiver and the Patient

A key concept in interactive care is to make the patient’s experience and preferences more visible to the care team. In addition, it helps to ensure accountability across the care unit.

From Patient to Caregiver: Engaging patients to provide feedback on their experience is critical to managing patient satisfaction. Anticipating and responding to patient needs in a timely manner is a key measure under the CMS pay-for-performance reimbursement model. A good example is pain control. Interactive patient care lets patients document their own pain levels, which immediately can populate the electronic health record (EHR) and the hospital’s electronic tracking boards.

The boards alert caregivers to the situation and make the patients’ concerns visible, hardwiring communication into the workflow and enabling a rapid response. This improves patient satisfaction and increases pay-for-performance reimbursement.

Closing the care visibility gap pain

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Technology can be used to enable patients to indicate their pain level, as in the example above that uses facial icons. The pain level can then be displayed to caregivers on an electronic white board as in the example below.

Closing the care visibility map

From Caregiver to Patient: According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid in February 2012, patient falls are the most common hospital-acquired condition. Falls pose a risk to patient outcomes as well as hospital cost and revenue, and often occur because neither the patient nor the family is aware of the risk or of simple prevention methods. An effective three-tiered prevention strategy includes a well-documented risk assessment in the EHR, visual cues to communicate level of risk to the caregiver, and interactive processes to provide customized education to patients and families.

Engaging the Patient and Family Leads to Better Results

Each year, as recognition of the importance of patient engagement grows, it becomes more central to care delivery. Health IT can play an instrumental role in helping engage patients and their families to manage their health. As a core strategy, patient engagement can help bring improvements in outcomes, patient safety, satisfaction, quality and organizational efficiency.

By leveraging interactive patient care technology, providers can close the visibility loop by integrating the patient and the caregiver in the process of care. Closing the loop helps improve caregiver efficiency and responsiveness to the patient. Putting the patient at the center of the care process helps make the healthcare journey worthwhile for us all.

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Michael O’Neil

About the author

Michael O’Neil was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 28. After four cycles of chemotherapy, he began building GetWellNetwork®. The company works with hospitals to improve performance and outcomes through patient engagement. Michael has served as an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Georgetown University and is a guest speaker at numerous university schools of business. Michael received a B.A. with honors from the University of Notre Dame and a JD/MBA from Georgetown University.

Story photo courtesy of GetWellNetwork.