Virtual Care & Services

Why Patient Experience Is Vital In Defining 21st-Century Healthcare

Prem Sharma
March 25, 2021

What Does Patient Experience Mean in Healthcare?

There are four main components that make up patient experience in healthcare: 1) outcomes, 2) experiences, 3) expectations, and 4) support. If any one of these components is lacking, the patient experience will not be successful or complete. Even if hospital staff provide a patient with the best care inside hospital walls, the overall patient experience is still poor if the patient suffers complications and negative outcomes after they leave the hospital. Patient experience requires all of these components to be operating at their highest levels to be successful.

Outcomes

Hospitals are one of the only industries that’s not all about customer satisfaction. Clinical outcomes are just as important, if not more important, than customer satisfaction. Outcomes in healthcare are driven by ensuring that every touchpoint during the patient’s journey is done right. Everything that occurs, from the moment the patient walks into the hospital to the moment they recover to full health, is a contributor to the final outcome. However, there is a gap that exists in this system. While each piece is done well, there is no ‘project manager’ that is in charge of looking at the entire patient journey and experience to make sure that as a whole, it is successful.

This is largely because in hospitals, each healthcare professional is only focused on their specific job. Healthcare professionals are all highly experienced and qualified, and they can perform their jobs at a very high level. However, there is only so much that they can do for patients when they are only in control of one piece in a larger puzzle.

To guarantee good patient outcomes, hospitals need to consider everything from what could have been done before the procedure, to how patient care was handled in the hospital, to what was done after, and so on. Hospitals need to look beyond episodic care - an area in which they are already very advanced - to the overall patient journey, and ask themselves the question, “how do we extend the reach of a provider to not only engage the patient in episodic care, but throughout the entire journey?”.

DayToDay decided to take matters into their own hands and find an answer to this question. Their solution? To become the missing project manager. DayToDay provides assistance and care to patients during the entire process, far beyond the short amount of time that the doctor has available to explain the care journey to the patient. Instead of hearing summed-up knowledge stemming from years of medical expertise in only 20 minutes, DayToDay provides a care coaching team that explains everything to the patient in plain language, and over as much time as it takes for the patient to fully understand their care plan.

What does this look like in practice? Doctors who use DayToDay spend the available time they have with their patients explaining DayToDay and advising patients that DayToDay will guide them through their care process. DayToDay then reaches out to the patient to make sure that they’re fully onboarded. DayToDay helps patients understand what they should be doing everyday, as well as why and how they should be doing those things, all with the assistance of dedicated care coaches.

Experiences

Traditionally, healthcare has been more focused on delivering good outcomes for patients than on understanding how they’re feeling. While outcomes are essential to an overall positive care journey, the experiences that patients have in the hospital are also incredibly important. Research has shown that seemingly minor things, such as the bedside manners of doctors and nurses, can have a great impact on patients.

Hospital staff are largely focused on getting everything medically correct, which can lead them to disregard their expressions and mannerisms. Some hospitals recognized this issue and, as a result, started hiring staff from the hospitality sector. They quickly found that this was not the correct solution. The hospitality experience is very different from the healthcare experience. While staff hired out of the hospitality industry were great with the experience piece, they were largely lacking on the outcomes piece.

Because the environment and the very nature of being in a hospital can be anxiety inducing, hospital staff must provide patients with extra care, sensitivity, and information. However, DayToDay found that when they asked patients at the hospital ’how is it going?’, their most common response was ‘I don’t know what’s going on’. This confusion is not surprising, considering there is currently no role in healthcare for making sure that patients are well-informed. The closest thing there is to this is a nurse navigator, who is in charge of making sure patients go to the right places while they’re at the hospital. This gap stems from the fundamental structure of healthcare. Healthcare was not designed to be overarching. If a patient has two separate problems, they are directed to go to two different places and see two different doctors.

DayToDay serves as the missing team member in charge of overseeing patients’ overarching care journeys. While DayToDay assists hospitals with in-hospital patient experience, their main focus is on what’s happening outside of the hospital. DayToDay maps out every step of the patient journey to figure out where it’s lacking and then uses this as a tool to constantly improve the patient’s care journey. They make sure that patients feel supported, take the time to understand their problems, and have the detailed information they need for a full recovery. DayToDay recognizes that patients are often extremely anxious after leaving the hospital, and they work to alleviate patient anxiety with around-the-clock care coaches. In addition, DayToDay works to decrease anxiety in family members by walking them through the patient’s post-op care instructions, teaching them how to monitor the patient, and so on. DayToDay helps patients and their families feel taken care of, even when there are no doctors around.

Managing Expectations

Patients often walk into hospitals with a preconceived notion of the type of care that they will receive. This preconception may stem from a hospital experience at a different hospital, or even a hospital visit in a different country. This creates a divide between what the patient expects and what they will receive at a specific hospital.

It’s important not to overlook the informational needs of patients. Hospitals need to start educating and guiding patients about how to best prepare for a procedure, what their frame of mind should be, what steps they can take to ensure the best outcome, and so on, from the moment they begin planning for a procedure.

When patients are thoroughly guided through all of the steps of the care journey, they are more likely to do the right things at every step and not make avoidable mistakes. Keeping a patient informed is not about simply educating patients on what they should be doing; it’s also about enabling them to go the extra mile with their healthcare so that they can achieve the best possible outcome. In some ways, an informed patient is even better than a good clinician.

Support

It’s essential that patients feel supported both before and after their procedures. However, hospitals are currently limited in what they can offer patients once they walk out of the hospital doors. Patients typically only receive 1-2 phone calls and a few follow up visits upon being discharged from the hospital. Patients rarely have access to even close to the amount of support they need from hospitals. You can learn more about the gap in patient support - and how DayToDay is filling this gap here.

How Can We Bring Healthcare Communication to the 21st Century?

One of the biggest gaps in healthcare is rooted in a lack of information and communication. The materials and methods of communicating information currently being used are extremely outdated and ineffective in both context and contact. For example, before a surgery, a patient might receive a booklet with hundreds of pages of information that they are expected to read through and understand. Some patients may never read a single page of this booklet, while others may read the entire booklet thoroughly. Regardless of whether or not the patient reads the booklet, the overall experience associated with the booklet is very poor.

DayToDay has consistently found that when patients are asked if they know what they should be doing today, they rarely do. While most patients have a broad idea about things like what medication they should be taking, there is a huge gap in the support they receive. To have good communication, hospitals need to make sure that their communication is timely and motivating. They also need to make everything very contextual. This may mean telling patients what they should be doing right before they do it, rather than four weeks beforehand, or altering the format in which the information is presented (i.e. paper, video, audio, etc.)

Besides, hospitals need to be cognizant of breaking everything down into an understandable manner. Most healthcare content is designed at a 12th grade reading level, but given the nature of the situation, DayToDay has designed their content at a 6th grade reading level. Hospitals need to step into the shoes of their patients and ask themselves what the patients’ needs are in regards to information. They should design this information from a non-medical point of view and extend the scope of the information to include psychological information, instructions for families, and so on.

Finally, hospitals need to eliminate the knowing-doing gap. Instead of only telling patients what they should be doing, medical staff should help patients understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. For example, if a patient needs to stop taking their medication, medical staff should explain to the patient why they need to stop. If a patient needs to do a certain exercise as part of their post-op care, medical staff should model it out for them. These are all small things that greatly improve communication between patients and healthcare professionals.

The DayToDay Difference

For patients with more severe healthcare problems such as cancer, many different care episodes are overlooked in the current healthcare system - from socio-economic issues that may appear during the healthcare journey, to support for patients’ primary caregivers, to navigating the complexity of cancer regimens, and so on.

Also, there are care transitions that are not accounted for, such as care coordination, patient navigation, and returning to normal life after recovery. Patients and their caregivers are currently overloaded with information, and they are left to make sense of something very complex and technical on their own.

With DayToDay, patients receive support in all of these areas, from initial preparation, to ongoing care and rehabilitation after recovery. More importantly, DayToDay works hard to understand every single need that patients have. In turn, DayToDay creates a customized communication plan for each patient that guides them through their needs and engages both them and their caregivers every day, instead of only checking in on symptoms during scheduled visits. This helps DayToDay create a general snapshot of a patient’s health to determine whether their symptoms are improving or worsening. DayToDay provides full transparency to patients by giving them on-demand access to their health plan, as well as helping them understand every step of their care journey.



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