Survey Says, Real-Time Patient Feedback Is a Game-Changer

As Bill Gates once said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Taken a step further, we all need people who will give us feedback — in real-time — so we can improve. The healthcare industry is no exception. A recent survey released by Chilmark indicates that real-time patient feedback, also known as point-of-care feedback, allows healthcare organizations (HCOs) to gauge patient satisfaction and quality of care while the patient is still on-site, leaving room for improvement before the patient experience comes to a close.

The Importance of Real-Time Patient Feedback

Why is the “real-time,” point-of-care factor so crucial for HCOs? According to Chilmark, real-time patient feedback gives providers the opportunity to immediately take action on outstanding issues before a negative patient experience becomes set in stone—moving that negative experience from “a done deal” to “we still have a chance to make it right.”

The implications of correcting a negative encounter, practice, or procedure on the spot go beyond the patient experience. While the patient experience should be a top priority, real-time patient feedback also serves as a good business-building practice, as it increases patient loyalty and encourages patients to share positive experiences with others. Essentially, improving the patient experience develops your brand as a quality care provider without additional marketing spend. The patients, in this case, become brand advocates.

Real-time patient feedback gives hospitals a faster way to receive feedback, and consequently, the opportunity to speed up time-to-implementation. With HCAHPS scores released every quarter, concentrated patient care improvement can increase HCAHPS performance quarter over quarter, ultimately driving revenue.

This immense focus on patient improvement is not isolated — a trend that can be seen through the emergence of the C-suite role, Chief Experience Officer (CXO). And CXOs are on a mission. In fact, the Chilmark survey found that at large, CXOs rank improved HCAHPS scores as a top priority.

Innovative Ways to Collect Honest Point-of-Care Feedback

If a patient does not feel comfortable sharing honest feedback, the provider runs the risk of collecting feedback that does not inform improvement efforts — or not collecting feedback at all.

In order to gain authentic insight into the patient experience, healthcare organizations must collect genuine patient feedback at the point of care. According to a study published by the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 14% of patients expressed concern that negative feedback would be poorly received. While 14% represents the minority of the surveyed patients, the percentage still represents a large portion of patients whose feedback could help improve an HCO’s overall patient experience.

One innovative way for an HCO to collect honest, real-time patient feedback is through anonymous patient feedback kiosks and devices. Patients who are afraid of feedback backlash may be more inclined to offer honest feedback if the feedback cannot be traced back to them. Perhaps this feedback will not improve that specific patient’s experience, but the effort will collect data to help HCOs better understand and optimize the patient experience.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania identified another subtle feedback collection method that patients readily engaged with. The study placed simple touch terminals at the point of care to collect real-time patient feedback. The touch terminals used emoticon buttons ranging from happy to unhappy for a simple feedback experience. The study found that the patients who utilized the touch terminals reported higher patient care satisfaction upon discharge.3. AI is starting to be more than just a buzzword

Which Questions to Ask Patients

Which questions should providers ask patients to gauge the quality of care delivered? Start by asking questions that allow the patient to rank the level of care received on a scale rather than a binary, “yes or no” format. Prompting patients with a feedback scale gives providers more insight into the patient experience without asking for more effort from the patient.

For instance, providers would gain more insight from the prompt, “rank your overall satisfaction on a scale of 1-10” than they would from the prompt, “Were you satisfied with the level of care delivered?” because it illustrates the strength of the sentiment behind the feedback — a 10/10 level of care expresses more excitement than “Yes, I was satisfied” and a 1/10 expresses more dissatisfaction than “No I was not satisfied.”

In terms of delivery, questions should be clearly stated and easy to answer. As is consistent with human nature, patients are likely to take path of least resistance, so if the feedback process seems too cumbersome, the patient may choose to forgo the feedback process altogether. Of course, not all patients share the same feedback preferences, so HCOs should diversify question formats to include both scaled responses, and open-ended responses.

Important to note: scaled responses are more quantifiable than open-ended responses and may be more valuable from a systemic level, while open-ended questions may offer more insight into the experience of a specific patient.

Choosing the Right Technology for Real-Time Patient Feedback

When choosing patient experience feedback technology, HCOs should first identify the data points that are most important to collect at each part of the patient journey. More specifically, when selecting the right patient feedback technology, HCOs should consider the ability to track metrics specific to the type of care provided. Identifying these data points on the front end saves time and effort in the long-haul because it narrows vendor options down based on need. For instance, behavioral health providers may want to consider platforms that directly address behavioral health care performance indicators such as mood.

Second, find a patient survey platform that understands the unique needs of data in the healthcare industry. Not all feedback collection platforms are created with the same data security standards, so be sure to look out for solutions that adhere to patient data protection laws such as HIPAA.

Getting Actionable Information to the Right People

Healthcare organizations can only make positive changes when feedback data is in the right hands at the right time — requiring interoperability between healthcare systems. In order to achieve this level of connectivity, HCOs must first identify which platform will act as the “single source of truth” — the platform that pools data from multiple sources, making it accessible to other systems as permitted.

From there, HCOs must underscore which employees need information immediately and which employees need the information for future analysis. Take, for instance, a patient who is admitted to the hospital who then undergoes several diagnostic tests — each run in a separate department. Poor communication between departments may cause the patient to worry about treatment plans and coordination amongst care providers.

To improve the patient experience prior to discharge, that feedback must quickly be circulated amongst that patient’s entire care team. A workflow-based integration would allow for providers to receive and respond to real-time patient feedback, significantly enhancing the patient experience as it happens.

Naturally, providers also need consistent, collective patient feedback data in order to draw insights on the entirety of the patient experience — a difficult task considering feedback data likely lives in multiple locations. Integration, in this case, makes collective patient feedback available to CXOs in order to improve quality of care at large.

Again, consider a patient who undergoes three separate diagnostic tests. If this patient experiences inconsistent quality of care between departments, the patient’s overall care experience may suffer. Furthermore, if feedback from each individual stage of the patient journey exists in a separate location, the provider cannot diagnose or improve the weak link in the patient journey. From an even broader level, tracking trends in patient care inconsistency may unveil a systemic barrier to quality care that otherwise would remain undiscovered.

At the end of the day, improvement requires feedback and feedback must be accessible to improve the patient experience. As noted by the Chilmark study, healthcare organizations looking to enhance the patient journey should leverage point-of-care feedback in order to improve care before the patient leaves — proactively investing in superior patient outcomes.

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