4 considerations for a communication strategy that supports clinical efficiency, patient satisfaction

Patients are beginning to approach healthcare as consumers, meaning they look at hospitals and healthcare providers like any other service. At the same time, a growing portion of reimbursement is tied to patient satisfaction and experience.

In this emerging healthcare environment, hospitals must ask themselves, "How do we define a positive patient experience? What does it look like? What does it involve?"

The Vocera Experience Innovation Network notes that positively influencing the patient experience occurs in hospitals where the human experience marries efficiency with empathy, according to a webinar sponsored by San Jose, Calif.-based Vocera Communications.

Moving the needle on the patient experience can be a challenge, however.

One of the best ways to drive an enhanced patient experience is through a communication strategy, according to Vocera, which provides an enterprise-grade communications platform that enables care coordination across people, locations and data sources. However, a hospital's communication experience goes beyond patient satisfaction to encompass productivity, revenue and bottom line.

Strategies to improve the patient experience can be simple. Typically, patient requests are not lavish — they want to rest, know and trust their caretaker and openly communicate with staff.

"Patient experience is really about healthy communication that lessens anxiety and promotes patients' healing and recovery," said Molly Gamble, editor-in-chief of Becker's Hospital Review in the presentation. "When we ask, 'What does the patient experience look like?' Maybe the patient experience is synonymous with the communication experience."

Joining Ms. Gamble on the webinar was Tressa Springman, CIO of LifeBridge Health, and Gautam "G" Shah, vice president of product management for Vocera, who together discussed how a communications strategy can impact clinical efficiency and boost patient satisfaction. They shared the following key takeaways.

1. Building a sustainable, secure, mobile communications strategy is an ongoing journey. "There is really no clear endpoint or time when you arrive," Ms. Springman said about communication strategies. But it is a necessary process "because of the movement in the industry to enhance communications on behalf of patients," she added.

Building this strategy means having many balls in the air at the same time. For example, consumers, patients and their families expect the same conveniences from care teams that they get from Uber and Amazon, Ms. Springman said. "The technology needs to be working for them," she said. While the technical ability to converge with multiple devices on your platform is integral to convenience for both patients and physicians, this must be balanced with security, she notes. Access and communication cannot be a tradeoff with security.

2. Basics matter. Define the foundational elements of your strategy first, Ms. Springman advised. The process of developing a communications strategy should be collaborative — including physicians, nurses and ancillary departments. On top of that, the technology should help, not hinder clinicians. For instance, nurse satisfaction will decline if the technology does not allow enough face time with patients. Identifying the basics of the communication strategy will help keep a clear focus while balancing the different needs of clinicians.

"At the end of the day, the objective here is to bring the human's ability to work with the other humans in the healthcare system — to humanize healthcare by taking away the barriers of communication, collaboration and working together through this platform," Mr. Shah said.

Part of deciding on a platform is driven by what is important to your organization. This may include your organization's appetite for risk and investments, your tolerance for alpha and beta versions of products and what you hope to achieve in the future.

"It's really important that you step back and understand foundational elements for your own organization. Ask: What's important today and where are we heading?" Ms. Springman said.

3. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Some key technologies may already exist within your organization, but some solutions may need to be added. There is often no single right tool, Ms. Springman said. Plus, different roles have different needs, and so do individuals. It will likely be necessary to create a flexible environment for both hands-free and smartphone devices.

On top of that, as Mr. Shah noted, care is expanding out of the acute care setting to ambulatory care, outpatient care and even into the home setting. "The need to have a seamless method of communication to share and collaborate across the continuum of care is critical to maintaining the efficacy of a patient's journey, driving patient satisfaction and, frankly, in driving staff and nurse satisfaction as well."

Ms. Springman noted LifeBridge Health is experiencing this expansion from acute care into outpatient care and care in the home and community. This shift now significantly influences the system's communication strategy, but was "certainly not something we were anticipating or focusing on 10 years ago when we began this process." As technology, the industry and your organization evolve, your solution will need to be nimble enough to evolve with it.

4. Look for a vendor that is ready to evolve with you. Because there is likely no single right tool, it is critical to carefully assess vendor partners as a fit.According to Ms. Springman, it is most important to understand how a vendor's innovation matches your organization, your foundational elements and your strategy. Their roadmap, ability to evolve successfully and match future products to your needs will be critical.

Because developing and maintaining a communications strategy is a journey, "Work with a provider that has the ability to grow with you, to provide the services that you need as you go through this journey ... and increase the sophistication and maturity of your communications process," Mr. Shah said.

 

To learn more about how to leverage your communications strategy for clinical efficiency and an enhanced patient experience, view the full webinar on YouTube here. View archived webinars here

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