Digital Care Tools to Help Provider Settings Better Support Patients

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By Jeff Fallon

“I want to be admitted to a hospital during a pandemic!” said nobody. Ever. 

Even care that would normally be happy – delivering a new baby or replacing a long ailing knee – can be fraught with new stress and fear these days. Before COVID-19, patient expectations for the hospital experience were never higher. But in the midst of this pandemic, it’s never been more important to employ technologies that help patients feel safer, better informed, and more connected.

Patient perception of care is an important variable under today’s increasingly value-based financial model. But in this world of instant information at our fingertips, those perceptions of care drive competitive differentiation that can win a market-dominating position. Moreover, a strong move upward in favorable “perceptions” can attract the most engaged patients – those who are shown to have the lowest costs and best outcomes. Patient engagement data suggests hospitals that attract more engaged patients will win the value-based reimbursement competition. 

Regardless of how new a hospital’s imaging equipment is or how expensive their surgical robot, patient experience results from the entire care episode. Imagine you’ve just been wheeled into your hospital room and find an old tube TV with a hardwired push-button remote control. Talk about first impressions! With smartphones and instant information at our fingertips, you might reasonably wonder what the rest of the hospital technology looks like behind the curtain. It’s not a stretch to imagine how outdated patient-facing technology subtly seeds doubt that might drive patients to look elsewhere next time.

Hospitals can start with the most basic items in transforming their environment. Visually engaging digital signage across a hospital campus shows visitors that the facility is modern and that the administration is dedicated to providing a great experience with helpful information from the moment of arrival. It presents a fresh look in keeping with the hospital brand while displaying all the important information patients and visitors need. Integrations with scheduling systems can dynamically display information to keep visitors informed about what matters most.

Hospital staff know that patients spend lots of time watching TV. They watch for comfort, distraction, and entertainment. However, interactive technology can also transform the TV into a hub for patients and staff. Many homes now have smart TVs with apps that let us do more than ever before – all personally tuned for each of us. Shouldn’t a hospital be capable of this? 

Modern bedside solutions integrated with a hospital’s existing technologies personalize content and interfaces for each user. Patients feel at home, safe, and engaged as a person, not just a patient. Most importantly, these integrations personalize the experience based on clinical details so that patients and their families can see clearly into their stay, the team that’s caring for them, their medications and procedures, and the diagnoses that brought them to the hospital in the first place. These connected devices also offer amazing new efficiencies for the nursing staff. Nurses are responsible for education and teach-back. But now, EMR integration means short, digestible educational videos can be automatically assigned based on diagnosis or patient profile. The system can automatically display comprehension questions with write back to the EMR to ensure patients understand their care. And because it’s automatic, the process bypasses the nurse unless there’s an issue they need to address. Beyond entertainment and patient education, these modern healthcare technologies let patients request things they need in the room directly from the appropriate department. Nurses can focus on clinical needs rather than taking time to relay patients’ room cleaning requests to environmental services. Patients can even order their meals from a graphical menu that presents only food options that are appropriate for their clinical condition, saving staff time and improving the dining experience. These are just a few examples of how patient rooms can be radically modernized compared to the current call-button status quo. 

Beyond patient satisfaction and nursing efficiency, these modern patient-facing technologies also create “touchless” interactions that reduce the need for PPE and help to contain the potential spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. For example, even the patient whiteboard can be modernized. Of course the EMR is the source of truth for all patient information. But there’s significant overlap between what’s in the EMR and what nurses manually update on the dry erase board every day. Any nurse will tell you that the quest for functional markers and erasers takes up far more of their time than it ever should. So why not automatically display up-to-date information on a digital whiteboard? Retiring markers and erasers means fewer handled potential contaminants in patient rooms, and EMR integration means information is always accurate, right from the source.

Since the widespread adoption of EMRs, there’s so much more we can do to enhance the patient experience and help nurses at their highest level of clinical authority. There’s no time like the present, especially amid a pandemic, to re-evaluate healthcare’s status quo to create the next generation of inpatient care.

Jeff Fallon brings over 30 years of experience in healthcare technology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostics to eVideon as their Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining eVideon, he helped distinguished organizations such as Johnson & Johnson and patient experience technology companies forge innovative strategic relationships and strategies. He earned a BA from Duquesne University, an executive MBA at the University of Pittsburgh, Katz School of Business, and completed a health economics fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School. He is also a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a former advisor and current member of the Board of Directors for Western Pennsylvania HIMSS chapter. 

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