10 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience at Hospitals

Written by on August 31, 2012 in Features - No comments

Hospitals looking for innovative ways to improve patient care might want to encourage staff who are working with patients to offer ideas on how it could be done. Penn Medicine in Philadelphia recently launched an innovation tournament across its health system to devise ways to improve patient care.

Participants worked with professors at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School to hone their proposals for its “Your Big Ideas Challenge,” spanning hospital navigation to smoothing the transition in and out of the hospital. Among the more than 1,750 ideas submitted from 1,400 participants, 10 were selected to be presented before a town hall meeting next month when the winning pitches will be chosen.

Kevin Mahoney, Penn Medicine chief administrative officer who developed the innovation challenge along with Judy Schueler, the chief human resources officer and vice president of organization development, said the health system was keen to get ideas from staff working on “the front lines” of care.

It was pleased to have gotten participation from each of the entities that make up its health system, though the majority came from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Based on the response, Mahoney said it would hold another innovation tournament focusing on more targeted issues such as reducing costs by 10 percent or reducing hospital stays by one day.

In addition to some of the finalists, here’s a selection of some of the proposed ideas that reflect some of the innovative approaches to healthcare.

Digital map/signage of hospital

Inevitably, some of the most common problems are the most fundamental. Finding one’s way around a hospital, be it a patient or a staff member, seems to be among the biggest challenges. It can cause people to be late for appointments; it can lead to mix-ups and can worsen what may already be a stressful experience. Among the ideas proffered to surmount this problem were providing a digital map, digital signs and color coordinated divisions.

Managing patient check out

The process of checking out of a hospital can be tied up by waiting for x ray and lab results that can cause a delay in patients leaving much needed hospital beds. The “almost home” room, with reclining chairs with TV and Internet connection would help patients remain comfortably at the hospital while reducing the traffic around hallways and reception areas.

A dedicated room for families to mourn loved ones

Family who may be traveling a great distance deserve a dignified place to spend with loved ones who have died, but the demand on patient rooms is high and a shared room may not be the best setting. A bereavement room where family members can spend time with recently deceased family members in a welcoming environment could address this issue.

Speeding up referral appointments

Patients referred between Penn providers frequently wait months for their appointments and can lead to urgent care clinics getting clogged. One solution could be to provide clinical practices in the health system with times reserved for new referrals within the health system.

Online patient organizer

In an effort to reduce the time it takes for patients to schedule appointments and fill-in questionnaires while they wait, patients could do many of these things before they set foot in the physician’s office. A web-based application could provide these services, help patients navigate the hospital campus, find out what documents or medications they need to bring to

their appointment, etc. They could also read about the physician they are scheduled to see.

Patient education videos

For people undergoing invasive surgery, elective or not, can be stressful. Providing patients with a more informed understanding of the process through a video on YouTube or a dedicated website could facilitate that experience and help patients raise informed questions prior to the procedure. Jefferson University Hospitals has been undergoing a pilot program that addresses this issue.

Mobile app mapping out patient’s care

To ease patients’ anxiety, one proposal would develop an app for patients to keep track of what to expect when they are going into the hospital for elective surgery, for example. It would provide a checklist with reminders, informed consent, and decision making aids. It could also provide a post operative check list for their recovery with reminders to ensure their recovery stays on course.

Helping patients stay connected with friends and family

One downside of being in the hospital is the potential to feel isolated from family and friends. One group proposed making Skype available 24/7 to help patients keep in touch with family and friends.

Scannable bracelets to avoid medication mixups

One group proposed developing a way to scan medication with a patient’s wrist band as an extra precaution to ensure the right medication is being given to the correct patient. The practice comes from another hospital where it “drastically reduced” medication errors at the facility.

Helping non-English speakers

For patients who don’t speak English, an iconography card could help them express themselves to hospital staff, particularly in urgent situations if they had pain or need to make a call when a family member or translator is not available.

by Stephanie Baum, Philadelphia Bureau Chief for MedCityNews



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