By Mike Maselli
A recent report from Accenture found that only one-third of adult patients can say they’ve never had a bad healthcare experience. Although recent breakthroughs continue to change medicine for the better, many hospitals forget that procedures and medications are just one part of the overall patient experience. For instance, noise has nothing to do with treatment by definition, but people’s main complaint about hospitals is how loud they are.
To create a positive patient experience in hospitals, healthcare leaders need to do more than deliver satisfactory care — they also need to consider every patient-provider touchpoint. Financial services, hospitality, and other customer-facing industries have been investing in tools that enable better experiences for years, and it’s time for healthcare to do the same. In short, hospitals must figure out how to enhance the patient experience and exceed expectations.
If this sounds like a lot to take on, it doesn’t have to be. Just as technology improves the efficiency of hospital operations, it can also be used to holistically deliver the services patients need when and where they need them. And with the COVID-19 pandemic spurring demand for digital services and telehealth, technology that improves the patient experience is more accessible than ever. Hospitals just need to take advantage of it.
How Technology Can Elevate the Patient Experience
Technology is a pillar of modern healthcare, giving patients more control over their experiences, and tech giants such as Apple and Amazon already recognize the space’s potential. Amazon launched an accelerator to foster startups trying to enhance care, lower costs, and improve the patient and clinician experience, for instance. Amazon also started its own healthcare platform, Amazon Care, which promises to make healthcare treatment more convenient.
But technology isn’t the only thing that makes a hospital successful. The holistic patient experience also includes facility design, staffing, continuous training, and patient education. The tech industry knows this, and many healthcare organizations are realizing it, too. With this in mind, hospitals will need to consider how technology can supplement every aspect of the patient experience.
For example, the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta decided to map out every interaction within its facilities and patients’ homes to identify areas that needed to be changed. A patient and clinical advisory team was put together to analyze the data and determine what technology could improve the patient experience. My company, Ross & Baruzzini, facilitated the analysis and provided recommendations while maintaining governance over the budget and operational impact to IT. This was a major undertaking, but it was one the hospital knew was necessary if it wanted to meet the modern needs of patients and maintain its high standard of care.
3 Tech Implementations to Create Smart Healthcare Solutions
Improving patient care should be the No. 1 priority for hospitals in the “next normal.” With that in mind, here are three areas where smart hospital technology can be implemented to create a superior experience for healthcare consumers:
1. Smart rooms in hospitals.
Technology can turn hospital rooms into command centers for patients and family members, giving them control over their entertainment, education, food delivery, and utilities (such as environmental controls and lighting). By empowering patients in this way, hospitals can significantly improve the hospitality experience and make people more comfortable in what are usually stressful situations.
A smart hospital room can also provide patients with more clarity about their condition and treatment. Electronic whiteboards can offer real-time updates to both patients and clinical staff, and digital footwall monitors and displays outside room doors can help ensure that everyone is up to date on patients’ healthcare journeys.
To be effective, patient-centric rooms need to be created with a comprehensive strategy in mind. Rather than haphazardly adding in different technologies that might or might not work together, leaders should make deliberate choices. After all, the spaces must work for patients, families, and staff, all while facilitating a continuous flow of data in real time.
2. Location awareness systems.
Real-time location systems are the cornerstone of a patient-centric smart hospital. This technology helps hospital staff better manage inventory, keep track of important equipment, guide patients through facilities, and know where to go.
A comprehensive, real-time location system will require updates to a building’s infrastructure. New cables will need to be run, and space will need to be created in supply areas for interactive walls. It can be a big undertaking, but with careful planning, location awareness systems can deliver significant benefits and efficiencies.
3. Interactive healthcare solutions.
Modern hospitals need to provide the interactive audiovisual tools and healthcare entertainment options necessary for education and positive distraction. This is especially true for children’s hospitals, where entertainment and education are critical components for creating calm and reassuring a child facing uncertain experiences.
COVID-19 made it especially difficult for hospitals to provide in-person entertainment, illustrating the need for this type of technology. With interactive solutions, healthcare staff can upload videos, livestream events, and bring a sense of fun and community to patients’ rooms. Playing games or video chatting with friends or family can also have a positive impact on children’s recoveries.
Modern consumers require better patient experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee this need is met. But with care and planning, hospitals can use tech to create smart healthcare solutions that put patients first.
Mike Maselli is the technology division principal at Ross & Baruzzini, a premier international technology consulting and engineering firm.