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New technologies, hospital strategies promote patient engagement

The American Customer Satisfaction Index released a report revealing that overall patient satisfaction dropped since last year

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released a report last month revealing that overall patient satisfaction with hospitals and ambulatory care stands at 77.6 percent, down 3 percent from a year ago. According to the report, ambulatory care, which includes office visits to doctors, dentists and optometrists, ranked higher (at 79 percent satisfaction) than hospital services (76 percent). Nonetheless, both categories saw a drop from last year's ACSI survey.

Surveys on patient satisfaction, like the ACSI report and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), point to the importance of hospitals and health systems focusing on increasing patient engagement efforts, said Jan Oldenberg, senior manager of Ernst & Young’s Advisory Health Care Practice. Patient engagement is key to improving overall patient satisfaction levels, she said.

[See also: Patient satisfaction more influenced by hospital staff than facilities]

Derek Mabie, president of Evolve Digital Labs, an online customer acquisition firm, said it’s important for hospitals to continually find new ways to involve patients in their care, and connect them with their caregivers, in order to increase patient satisfaction. Ways to do this include educating patients about their health condition in the moments before leaving the hospital, and building relationships with patients using mobile applications or online patient portals.

“While in the midst of a transformation in the healthcare industry, a lot of organizations are looking for ways to become more efficient and fiscally responsible, but simultaneously satisfying patients’ needs and producing more successful outcomes,” said Mabie. “For instance, what do patients ultimately want out of their healthcare system’s website? We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to take what hospitals already do well within their four walls outside of the hospital – pre- and post-care engagement with patients in the home.”

Recently, two Boston hospitals -- South Shore Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital -- teamed with mobile technology company Wellframe to launch a clinical pilot among patients enrolled in South Shore’s joint cardiac rehabilitation program using Wellframe’s mobile application to connect with patients in various ways outside of the hospital.

According to Karen LaFond, nurse manager
 at South Shore, clinicians have seen a significant improvement in patient retention and compliance with cardiac rehabilitation care plans when using mobile applications.

LaFond explained that while cardiac rehabilitation programs have been shown to reduce five-year mortality rates by up to 45 percent among patients with coronary heart disease, many patients don’t end up participating in the programs. Some are not able to afford the programs, or get transportation to the hospital. But with the Wellframe application installed on their mobile devices upon leaving the hospital, LaFond said patients are able to check daily to-do lists, log exercise, remind themselves to take medications and interact directly with clinicans.

[See also: Patient engagement lessons]

Jacob Sattelmair, CEO of Wellframe, explained that clinicians can track their patients’ progress on a clinical dashboard, allowing them to intervene with patients if necessary.

“If patients can’t come into our offices for their scheduled three-times-a-week appointments, we are able to connect with them through the app. It makes patients feel more committed to the program this way. It gives them a sense of success and it really adds to the patient experience,” said LaFond. “We can help prevent readmissions this way with long-term follow up.”

LaFond added that using a program like this one cost nothing extra for South Shore, they weren't required to hire more staff.

“We just added this program into our daily routine,” she said. “An added bonus is that a program like this keeps patients coming back to us again and again.”