Improve the Patient Experience
Whether you need a simple checkup or are having a major procedure, venturing into a doctor’s office, clinic, surgery center or hospital can be an intimidating, worrisome and even frightening. One of the greatest challenges faced by medical and support staff is how to ease patient concerns and make them feel more comfortable and in control during these trying visits. Many innovative solutions have been implemented in facilities across the country, but recently some of the most exciting have come from a somewhat unexpected source: technology.
High-tech solutions may seem like unlikely heroes in the battle for patient personalization and comfort for any number of reasons. Technology has a reputation for depersonalization and distance, it feels alien and intimidating on its own for some non-tech-savvy users, and it feels cost-prohibitive. But the truth is that technology offers opportunities for improving the experiences your patients have every day in a number of different ways.
Devices are affordable and accessible. According to Pew Research, as of January 2014, 58% of American adults have a smartphone and 42% own a tablet computer1. This level of market penetration – which is only expected to grow over coming years – means your patients are more likely familiar with the use of a smartphone or tablet and may already have one that they use during their visit. What’s more, prices have fallen and continue to fall on entry-level devices. Giving patients access to tablets or apps for their tablets during their visit can streamline the intake process and reduce dependence on paper (feeding information directly in to electronic charting). Provide patients access to educational or entertainment content for the duration of their visit.
Patient education videos are helpful and engaging. Doctors and trained medical personnel only get so much time in the office or treatment facility with a patient during their visit and after. Technology can extend that time and patient engagement2. Videos can prepare patients for what to expect from their visit to streamline the process and ease worries, and can keep them on-track post-treatment. Mercy Medical Center in Maryland began prescribing patient care videos as part of their treatment and found that two years after launching the program, 72.4% of patients completed their prescribed educational programs3.
Mobile apps are becoming the norm. While once the realm of science fiction, handheld device-hosted and web applications are now commonplace. Some apps are sponsored by well-known resources and clinics, such as WebMD® and The Mayo Clinic. As of September 2013, there were 205 hospital-branded web apps available for Apple® iOS and Android™ platforms4. These apps provide a variety of services and functions:
- 61% provide access to patient health records and information
- 30% allow patients to make ER appointments
- 60% offer educational content
- 62% include a provider directory
Communication with loved ones aids the healing process. Ensuring patients have ready access to loved ones aids the recuperative process and eases anxiety. Technology can facilitate that through the use of communication programs like Skype™ and Facetime® via laptops and mobile devices. Go the extra step to provide training on the use of those devices and you create engagement and customer loyalty. UC Davis Children’s Hospital understands this, and provides loaner laptops to children who stay for extended periods of time. They even send webcams to distant family members to facilitate communication5.
Using technology absolutely comes with challenges. It should be innovative and advanced, but not so much so that it becomes frightening on its own. Create well -thought-out usage policies and implementation and training plans that are supported by your IT department. If you can improve your patients’ experiences, and make them more engaged and comfortable with their care, they are more likely to come back, yielding great returns for you and your organization. Even though there’s no substitute for a trained medical professional when it comes to patient care, when it comes to improving experiences between real live people, there might just be an app for that.