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Why creating better patient experience in NICU is a smart move for hospital pocketbooks

High-performing NICUs have eight critical factors in common, say researchers, and quality collaboratives have played a part in their improvement.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Leaders of neonatal intensive care units generally share best practices with each other, and yet NICUs that use similar interventions in similar fashions often don't achieve identical results, clinically speaking. 

This implies there's a "secret sauce" to a good NICU, and figuring that sauce out is important from a financial perspective, as value-based reimbursement schemes increasingly link patient satisfaction to reimbursement.

In fact, in a recent survey from Black Book, a full 92 percent of healthcare consumers surveyed said that improving customer experience should be a top strategic priority for medical providers over the next 12 months, an increase from the 71 percent who said so last year.

Luckily, research newly published in medical journal BMJ found that high-performing NICUs have eight critical factors in common.

They are: strong performance-improvement leadership at the administrative and executive levels; boards of trustees who are actively involved and provide continuity in vision regardless of changes in senior hospital leadership; an effective oversight structure that avoids duplicating efforts; expert performance-improvement staff who are trained in quality and safety and able to carry out projects successfully; accountability; staff who are actively involved; effective use of data in decision-making; and effective communication strategies for all stakeholders.

There have been improvements in NICU performance, the author said, due in part to NICU quality collaboratives such as the Vermont Oxford Network, Children's Hospitals Neonatal Consortium and state perinatal collaboratives (such as California, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina). But consistent performance will likely require adoption of the eight critical success factors.

Ninety percent of patients no longer feel obligated to stay with healthcare providers that don't deliver an overall satisfactory digital experience, and 88 percent of respondents under age 40 said they will choose their next medical provider based on a strong online presence, said Black Book.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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