Focusing on and improving the right aspects of patient engagement: Part 2

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By Andy Roth

Part 2

In the past few years, patient engagement has come more and more into the spotlight as hospitals and other healthcare organizations look to improve their patient retention, their CAHPS scores, and their online reputations. It’s true that patient engagement is a vital piece of any organization’s growth strategy. Before throwing resources at ill-advised patient engagement initiatives, however, organizations should take some time to think through a scalable, sensible strategy for addressing patient concerns.

In this series, we’re taking a look at three areas hospitals can focus on to improve patient engagement — intake, nurses, and doctors — and finishing with an examination of how monitor and track patient engagement so it can be changed for the better.

Last time, we discussed how intake sets the stage for good (or bad) patient engagement. Today, we continue with… nurses!

How do your nurses communicate?

  • Do they quickly build rapport and establish relationships with the patients under their care?
  • Do they consistently share information with patients about what the next steps are and when those steps will be taken?

Nurses want to give great care and have a positive impact on the patient experience. Many also feel, however, that they don’t have the time to do so — they can’t sit with each patient for 30 minutes, get to know them, answer all of their questions, etc. They’re right, of course; nurses are busy, and consistently taking that long with each patient is a recipe for falling disastrously behind.

The good news

It doesn’t take nearly that long to build rapport. A nurse simply asking to sit next to the patient to chat about clinical matters has been shown to increase patient satisfaction. Patients and their families are often worried about the immediate future. This worry largely comes from the fact that they don’t feel armed with enough information to confidently understand what’s happening with their health or the care they are receiving. Nurses are uniquely positioned to ease these worries because they interact with patients so frequently and so intimately. If a nurse takes just a few seconds, several times over the course of a patient’s stay, to share both updates on the patient’s situation and next steps with the patient and their family, organic rapport will be built and everyone will be much happier and more comfortable.

So the good news is, nurses definitely have the skill, and with support and resources from management they have the time as well. And here’s the better news: the more assistance they receive, the better they can do. Broadly, this involves mundane things like ensuring supplies are in-stock and accessible, as well as making sure the nurses have time for effective patient education. To truly accomplish the goal of improving patient engagement via the nursing staff, management must set up a framework where the entire nursing staff shares in the responsibility of improving patient care and communication. This will involve giving nurses the authority to speak up and problem-solve about how patients are cared for and how the staff is treated. If management can empower the nursing staff by fostering a sense of teamwork, patient engagement will undoubtedly improve.

How can an organization facilitate this? By empowering their nursing staff through automating the collection of feedback from patients. Collecting feedback in an honest, impartial way without disrupting the organization’s workflow is vital. The feedback needs to be candid and forthcoming or it won’t be useful; and if being tasked with manually soliciting feedback makes it harder for nurses to complete their other assigned duties, they won’t consistently collect it. At Feedtrail, we’ve built a patient engagement tool that allows you to ask the right questions about all areas of patients’ experiences and then put their feedback into action. If you’d like to learn more about our solution, we’d be delighted to talk to you.

Part 3: Doctors, will be published next Thursday.