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What Patients Are Demanding

May 8, 2008
by Mark Hagland
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Got kiosks? The emerging environment of patient care is going to be not just about using automation to improve clinicians’ ability to provide higher-quality, safer care in a more efficient way, but also about enhancing the patient experience.

As executives at more and more patient care organizations are learning, today’s patients are becoming more demanding health care consumers. And why shouldn’t they be? If consumers can check in at airports and hotels conveniently, why shouldn’t they expect the same when they arrive for non-emergent care in hospitals? Yet most hospital care experiences remain behind the curve with regard to the kinds of experiences consumers have in other service industries, including the transportation and hospitality industries, retailing, and others.

Among the expectations patients bring to their hospital stays are control of their environment; ability to communicate with staff; frequent contact with their own doctors; quick response to needs; diversions; good meals and food choices; contact with family; simple check-in; and prompt service, according to a new white paper from the Waltham, Mass.-based Emerging Practices Group at the CSC Corporation. Among the technologies hospital leaders should consider, the report’s authors suggest, include kiosks, digital signage and wayfinding, online portals, the provision of e-mail with providers, online scheduling, and online bill-paying.

From my perspective, the need to improve and enhance the patient experience in hospitals is a no-brainer. What’s more, as intra-market competition intensifies in communities and regions across the country, it is improvement in the direct patient experience that will be the first thing noticed by patients/consumers as they consider where to go—or go back—for patient care. I continue to be fervent in my advocacy of improvement in quality of care and patient safety. But at the same time, I believe that hospital and health system leaders need not only to improve the core of their patient care quality and safety; they have to do it while enhancing their patients’, and patients’ families’, experiences of care.

Obviously, the “enhanced patient experience” mandate adds yet another item to the long list of mandates facing CIOs. After all, they are the ones who will supervise the purchase of self-service kiosks, patient entertainment systems, and automated systems that will allow patients to do such things as custom-order meals or access video-based translator/interpreter services. But CIOs also have a distinct opportunity to be “heroes” in this area, as the relatively easy wins (certainly compared to rolling out CPOE and closed-loop medication management systems, for example) in this area can lead to real gains in market competitiveness. Wouldn’t it be best if you got those gains before your local competitors did?

And then, of course, there’s that human element. Who wouldn’t want to see more smiles on the faces of patients in their hospital?

“Patient-Centeredness: Using IT to Support the Shift to Patient-Centered Care” can be accessed at: http://www.csc.com/industries/healthservices/knowledgelibrary/4795.shtml

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I agree. Patients (just like our employees) will expect the same level of "self-service" that they get with any other service experience. And we are here to serve our patients...

Mark Hagland

Editor-In-Chief

Mark Hagland

@hci_markhagland

www.healthcare-informatics.com/blog/mark-hagland

Mark Hagland became Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare Informatics in January 2010. Prior to that, he...