How 3 hospital leaders have used IT to help patients during the COVID-19 crisis

Technology can help transform patient experience and service quality. As patients return to healthcare settings during the pandemic, a strong IT infrastructure is key to ensuring they’re satisfied and receive top service.

At a Oct. 9 session at the Becker’s Health IT + Revenue Cycle Virtual Event, three hospital leaders discussed patient experience and service quality in the age of COVID-19 and how IT is playing a key role in improving both as healthcare facilities navigate unchartered waters.

Panelists included:

● Medell Briggs, MD, interim chief, health equity, diversity and inclusion at University of California Los Angeles Health and associate professor of emergency medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine
● Matt Phillips, vice president, health informatics at Rochester (N.Y.) Regional Health
● Beau S. Gostomsky, RN, vice president, revenue cycle at Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City (Mo.)

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.

Question: What has been one health IT initiative that you feel has really moved the needle in terms of patient experience and satisfaction in the last year?

Beau Gostomsky: When I think about patient experience and patient care, it really is: How do our information services support the physical care and the telemedicine care that we were doing, and were they capable of it? I’m happy to say that we were able to. We had a small telehealth practice that we had already started. We were able to take that and replicate it across the organization. Again, it was go as you learn. It was different for all of our providers.

But the IT structure, or the information services structure behind it, was 100 percent supportive. One of the innovative things we did was move patient registration to virtual, which I know it may be innovative for us, maybe not for other organizations, but it was a huge patient satisfier.

Then we were in lockstep with our information services team and their continual questioning: What more can we do for you? Where do you need us? If we are having technical issues, they were on them right away and resolving them.

Matthew Phillips: One of our seven strategic goals for the system was targeted around quality patient education, [and] getting patient engagement through that. Typically, it was tied to visits and tied to services. We kind of untethered that this year. I think the timing was just right, because we were able to launch large population outreaches with video education, through our portal, through our email and reach patients and engage them outside of the typical visit.

I think the blessing with that was we tested it on hypertension for our test campaign [and] we got a lot of people that actually went and got cuffs as a result of the education. They wanted to monitor better at home.

Some visits were set up. They wrote their doctors if they had questions. Then we just did a large one a few weeks ago with back-to-school in New York occurring, on just general COVID awareness and a refresher on everything. It was really a nice alignment with the pandemic. It allowed us to really engage our patients in a different manner that we hadn’t traditionally.

Dr. Medell Briggs: One of the things that I think that we all experienced with our patients and their families during this time period is the feeling of social isolation. One of the pieces that we did is that we very quickly — we made sure that there was an iPad connected to Zoom in every single patient room, because given that there was a no-visitor policy in general, when patients come to the emergency department, when patients are admitted to the hospital. It’s a very scary time, and you feel very vulnerable. The whole point of you having a visitor or a family member or friend there with you is to provide that support, that reassurance and that comfort level. All of us, I think, across the country, having to roll back so many of our visitation policies, literally left our patients feeling very, very scared, very alone. We tried to do our best in order to fill that gap.

As mentioned, what we actually did do was put an iPad into every room that was connected directly to Zoom, so that family members can actually at any point in time, actually ping and see their family members [and] speak to them. That also allowed much more timely communication between the patient, their family and the healthcare professionals. That’s one thing that I think that as we’re thinking about the operational efficiencies, all of the various technology that we’re implementing, [we’ve got to be] really thinking about the empathy and the support for our patients and how do we actually scale up a lot of these different interventions?

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