Nobody can understand all of the questions and concerns a patient and their family really have unless they have been patients themselves. The best way for hospitals to better serve their patients is to put themselves in the patient’s shoes and understand their needs. When you can effectively do this, you can provide valuable information to help improve the patient experience.
An easy approach is to walk through an entire care path a prospective surgery patient would have to follow. Throughout the process look for answers to the questions that most patients would have. What happens at the pre-surgery clinic? What happens on the day of surgery once I arrive at the hospital? Who will I work with on the day of surgery? What are the details of my recovery and discharge after surgery?
At the hospital, go through and map out the entire process and shadow patients going through the steps in real-time. Take note of all the people worked with. In the end, you may find the patient had to interact with up to ten or twelve people. Each person, at the clinics or the hospital, fill a different function and are needed pre-surgery, during surgery, or post-surgery.
Throughout this process identify points where a patient could feel anxious, confused, or uncomfortable. Certain transitions where handoffs occur between different team members of the hospital should be noted as well. Once the information is gathered, the first step is to identify the areas where service improvement is needed. At key points along the surgery path the care team must aim to relieve any patient concerns before continuing.
For example, at one hospital we noticed that information was not being communicated between the pre-surgery clinic and the hospital after one of these “touch points.” At the pre-surgery clinic we filled out multiple forms with a lot of personal information, yet upon arrival at the hospital on surgery day we had to fill out similar forms with the exact same information again. An improvement to the computer systems or communication between locations was clearly needed and would bring efficiency to patient service, not to mention reduce wait times!
On that same note, wait times can be its own issue. On the day of surgery, during pre-op, many people find themselves waiting for up to a couple of hours just to begin their surgeries. The exact time a patient is stuck in a waiting room varies, but can be noticeably longer than you expect. This is a sign of a communication gap, and in order to fill it the hospital staff must know what to say in order to put a patient at ease. First off they can explain that there is an expected wait of a certain time, and next give the patient reasoning (usually doctors must reassess based on patient health conditions on day of surgery).
Another integral part of the surgery process is transitioning. Transitions occur at times like going in to and out of surgery, and in and out of rehab. These are areas where the patient is given a lot of information. For example, when a patient prepares to leave the hospital they usually have some general questions:
Where do I need to go?
What do I need to do?
Who follows up with me?
This information could be made more readily available by improving staff communication in the hospital, but the easiest solution would be something to empower the patient to have this information readily available at all times.
Hospitals are always a bustle of activity, but from a patient’s standpoint they may not be very coherent or well flowing. As you will notice when you step in the patient’s shoes, there are gaps along a surgery care path that hospital staff can miss. By changing your point of view you are able to identify these gaps and can take the necessary steps to improve. The result is a golden opportunity for hospitals to gather the entire surgery team and discuss the patient experience.
If you decide you need outside help getting “a patient’s perspective,” the Wellbe.me team can leverage its expertise in ePatient Experiences to review your health system’s current experience for patients, assess the health system’s readiness for new innovations, and recommend executable strategies that support the health system’s strategic goals. Contact us today.