The patient is now at the center of care. The changes that have been implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) over the past few years are putting value ahead of volume, improving joined-up care, and using patients’ feedback on their care to rate and reward healthcare institutions that successfully address patient needs.
Although preoccupation with keeping patients satisfied can sometimes result in excesses such as the “hotel-hospital experience” to keep patients feeling happy, the HCAHPS survey is promoting implementation of principles that are useful in the long run for all parties involved in care. Addressing reasonable patient concerns about the care process lets hospitals tailor care in a way that reassures patients, improves care delivery, and boosts the hospital’s bottom line, by avoiding reimbursement penalties from CMS.
Here are five ways implementing patient-centered care can maximize everyone’s satisfaction.
1. Increased communication
Increasing communication and interaction time between patient and physician enhances the patient experience. It gives the patient the sense that they are important, that their concerns are being addressed, and that all efforts are being made to provide them with the best care possible. However, it’s not just about increasing time in terms of volume, but in terms of value: physicians need to be able to gather important details from the patient that can help them appropriately prescribe and even individualize their strategy of care. Hiring certified medical scribes to remove clerical EHR burdens from the physician and allow them this interaction can be a key strategy to accomplishing this.
After the patient contact, communication is still important. For example, ensuring follow-up contact from the patient’s primary healthcare provider within 48 hours of a hospital admission, hospital discharge or emergency room visit helps patients feel valued and ensures that communication across providers is coordinated, organized and effective for planning treatment at all stages of the patient’s care.
2. Preventive healthcare
Promoting preventive care can greatly increase the quality of care and spares the patient avoidable conditions and complications, and the potential psychological stress of treatment and/or readmission. Conscientious care (through careful coordination among multiple healthcare providers) that results in having fewer hospital readmissions within 30 days is also an incentive for healthcare providers, as this helps them to avoid reimbursement penalties associated with readmission.
Where patients have been hospitalized, it can be difficult to keep them healthy — mentally and physically — after they have survived an acute crisis and exited the acute care phase. Coordinating a post-discharge care plan that integrates treatments in the context of the whole health history of the patient, with a view toward future risks, is important for maintaining the patient’s stable condition. Doing so relies on patient education, intra-provider, better documentation and strategic planning. Implementing coordinated care successfully increases efficiency and heightens the potential for better outcomes — and eliminates frustrations for patients, thus increasing their confidence in and satisfaction with care.
3. Patient follow-up and outreach
Regular contact with the patient after hospital discharge or as part of care for a chronic condition is also a key strategy, rooted in patient satisfaction and better outcomes. If, for example, information on patient status and required medication are identified by the primary healthcare provider within 48 hours of discharge from the hospital, this increases the potential for a smooth transition in care from hospital to home. Paying attention to this all-too-frequent, transitional gap in care improves outcomes by reducing the likelihood of readmissions. This is obviously great news, in terms of health and happiness, for the patient, but also keeps hospitals from spending on further treatments and provider time that could have been prevented. Implementing a program that sends nurses and case workers to check up on patients and help them with managing their condition in their home environment can help.
4. Patient engagement and empowerment
Another way to increase patient satisfaction while maximizing outcomes is to involve patients in their own medical care. When patients are engaged, active participants in the decisions and actions that are critical to improving their health, they may be more likely to comply with treatment and self-care which, consequently boosts clinical outcomes. Shared decision-making that is medically appropriate yields greater satisfaction because patients are able to have a say about what they prefer and because their opinions were considered and respected. Educating patients about their condition is also crucial to empowering them with the knowledge they need to keep themselves healthy, especially in the period after hospital discharge.
Triaging health problems in order to hospitalize only the severest cases can save patients from unnecessary procedures and the anxiety of being in the hospital. Chronic or recurring conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, pneumonia or urinary tract infection can be tended to without necessarily the need for inpatient care or emergency room treatment, if treated early and appropriately. Triaging also helps to quickly assess what is essential for each condition, which can sometimes avoid a detailed (and perhaps unnecessary) A–Z diagnostic work-up.
Patients who are paired with Care Navigators report feeling less anxiety, and an increased ability to self-manage their conditions between visits. And providers report increased job satisfaction from improved efficiency, and knowing their patients have access to care teams, and strategic support.
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