Hospitals are under constant pressure to improve patient outcomes for many reasons. Among them, healthcare consumerism is creating a market for better-informed patients. Health outcomes and low readmission rates are two criteria patients use to choose a hospital.
Additionally, value-based care has created financial incentives for hospitals to lower readmissions and improve outcomes.
So how can your hospital improve patient outcomes?
The Current Challenge
Hospitals face several challenges in pursuit of improved healthcare outcomes. Two of which overshadow the rest:
Providing Care is Expensive and Costs are Still Rising
Hospitals operate within increasingly tight budgets. Despite this, between 1960 and 2018, spending by both private and public payers has increased significantly:
- Healthcare expenditures as a share of GDP have risen from 5% to 17.7%. Additionally, U.S. per capita healthcare spending practically quadrupled from 1980 to 2018.
- Hospital readmissions cost Medicare approximately $26 billion annually, with nearly $17 billion spent on avoidable hospital trips after discharge.
In the past, a fee-for-services payment model incentivized providers to offer a large range of healthcare services. This practice often resulted in wasteful spending and redundancies. So, when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began adopting value-based care payment protocols, commercial payers have increasingly followed their lead.
The Patient Population is Changing
The challenge of improving patient outcomes is also made more difficult by the simple fact that there are major changes in the demographic profile of taking place. And that trend is only expected to accelerate.
In addition to the rapidly growing elderly population, hospitals are seeing:
- Sicker patients – Hospitals are accepting more sick patients to their emergency department than ever before. This creates additional burdens on staff to find ways to educate them about adverse health decisions.
- More diverse patient base – Similarly, hospitals are interacting with a more culturally and linguistically diverse patient population. Social determinants of health and lack of healthcare literacy create barriers of care and challenges for hospital staff to engage and educate patients about their healthcare.
The Solutions to Improving Patient Outcomes
To prepare for both industry challenges, there are four crucial ways that hospitals can engage their patients to improve patient outcomes.
Empower Patients to Self-Educate While Bedridden
Patient education plays a crucial role in improving health outcomes and lowering readmission rates. Patient education largely falls on the bedside nurse, but traditional patient education processes are outdated and ineffective for several reasons:
- Limited nurse time
- Larger nurse-to-patient loads
- Language and cultural diversity amongst patients
- Shorter lengths of stay
Hospitals are seeking new ways to teach their patients and ensure that they have a clear understanding about their health and self-care. In short, they’re looking for ways to empower their patients.
By turning the room into an interactive care and learning environment. One that provides easily accessible health education to help patients understand their diagnosis, care plan and medications. Hospitals like Torrance Memorial Medical Center use TVs and the Allen E3 interactive patient engagement solution to send educational videos directly to patients’ rooms, where they’re able to watch at their leisure.
When patients are empowered with entertaining, engaging and easily accessible health education, everyone benefits. Allen clients reported that their hospital experienced an average:
- 15% improvement in medication communication HCAHPS rating
- 9% improvement in discharge readiness HCAHPS rating
- 15% increase in care transitions HCAHPS rating
- 13% increase in nurse communication HCAHPSS rating
Those improvements are far beyond those of hospitals that still rely on traditional patient education models. Offering patients and their family members interactive access to care providers and medical resources allows hospitals to improve care outcomes.
Open Communication Channels with Patients
Communication plays a key role in healthcare service. It’s one of the simplest ways to improve the quality of care and patient satisfaction. The onus is on care providers to clearly, concisely and effectively communicate health information. For best results, they have to work with the patient to formulate health strategies and instill new habits.
As Care Excellence writes, “Negative outcomes from ineffective communication include increased readmission rates, and worsening disease due to poor follow through.”
In addition to this, many patients complain about lack of communication while they’re in the hospital. To prevent this, hospitals are incorporating digital tools to maintain a steady dialogue between patients and staff, including:
- Digital whiteboards
- Daily check-in surveys
- My Health Record access
- Medication information
- Patient feedback
- Discharge readiness checklists
These tools contribute to a more informed patient. Patients have at-their-fingertips access to their current and future care plan, empowering them to take an active role. Not only does that lead to better patient outcomes, it also significantly impacts how patients feel about their hospital stay. Allen clients reported a 38% increase in patient satisfaction rating.
Free Up Nurses’ Time for More Patient Care
Even in the best of times, the role of a nurse isn’t easy. They work long hours and are often understaffed. According to the American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, “Researchers discovered that a 25 percent increase in nurse job enjoyment over a two-year span was linked with an overall quality of care increase between 5 and 20 percent.”
A better work environment leads to happier nurses, and happy nurses lead to happy, healthy patients. Makes sense.
How can hospitals make their nurses’ jobs easier? Start by relieving them of non-clinical tasks. Tasks like:
- Tracking down paperwork
- Fixing technology issues in a patient’s room
- Gathering supplies
- Answering housekeeping requests
- Adjusting room temperatures
- And more.
Interactive patient engagement solutions like Allen E3 take these non-clinical tasks off the nursing staff. By integrating the interactive system with other hospital platforms, like food service and HVAC, Allen enables the patient to handle routine non-clinical requests directly with the relevant ancillary department.
The benefit to nurses? More time to focus on bedside care and patient education. And, ultimately that means patient outcomes increase and readmission rates decrease.
Prepare Patients for Discharge
Effectively preparing patients for discharge is critical to reducing readmission rates.
Discharging patients is a complex process. There are dozens of factors that must be considered from patient cognitive status to transportation services and more. Overlooking just one of these factors can lead to an unprepared discharge and greater likelihood for costly readmission.
As a whole, unplanned readmissions cost hospitals in America $15-$20 billion per year.
Streamlining and automating the discharge readiness process helps ensure that patients are fully equipped and informed to leave the hospital. Interactive discharge readiness checklists give the patient a step-by-step guide to their discharge plan:
- Has the patient viewed all of his or her assigned education videos?
- Does the patient understand their daily care plan once they go home?
- Does the patient know what medications have been prescribed, and why?
- Is there a good understanding of what warning signs to watch for and when they should call the doctor or nurse if concerned?
By empowering the patient with information, the patient is more likely to adhere to the post-hospital care plan and less likely to require readmission. And automating that process with a digital, interactive checklist like Allen’s E3 streamlines workflows for nurses.
The Allen Solution for Optimizing Care Outcomes
Hospitals must continually innovate and push boundaries in order to improve patient care outcomes. Despite rising costs and changing patient demographics, they’re tasked with finding new ways to enhance care.
That’s why hospitals partner with Allen Technologies.
Allen provides hospitals with an interactive patient engagement system – delivered right on the patient room TV -- that helps keep patients educated, entertained and engaged. Allen E3 improves patient satisfaction and health outcomes while simultaneously freeing up nurses to focus on what they do best: delivering exceptional patient care.
Looking to improve patient outcomes and lower readmissions? Allen is ready to help. Contact us to take a test drive.
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