Closing the feedback loop to drive patient experience improvements

Views & Analysis

Is collecting near real time data the key to unlocking improvements in patient experience and national benchmarking?

Small things can go a long way in terms of improving patient experience, but healthcare facilities cannot fix what they don’t know is broken.

In the first of our series of articles from the Patient Experience: Empathy and Innovation Digital Summit, we look at how uncovering actionable data through simple feedback surveys can boost organisations’ standing on the national stage.

Closed feedback loop

Surveying patients at admission and after discharge gives centres the opportunity to continually improve their offerings and, therefore, their national ratings.

That’s according to Timothy Carey, Director of Data and Performance Analytics at BaneCare, which has created a closed feedback loop for users of its short-term rehabilitation, long-term care, adult day health, and assisted living facilities.

During his talk at the summit, which was organised by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the Cleveland Clinic, Carey said standardised national data already existed via the Core Q programme for skilled nursing care centres.

The Massachusetts-based organisation, however, wanted to collect actionable information that they could use to drive change that would improve Core Q ratings.

“What we wanted to do was to collect data in as close to real time as possible… We wanted to see what the patient experience of someone at hospital A was like compared to someone at hospital B,” he said, adding that the aim was to demonstrate hospital-specific patient experience and drive up Core Q scores.

After discovering that most vendors were unable to “slice and dice” the data in the way they wanted, the team opted to use Survey Monkey to survey patient and residents at two key points of their healthcare journey – admission and discharge.

Real-time corrections

The first survey is carried out within 24 to 48 hours of admission,” said Carey, describing it as a “pulse check”.

“It is a handful of questions primarily around their concerns or anything that we could be doing better. We can track processes and experience right off the bat and make adjustments if needed.

Even simple things, like a fuzzy TV or problems with food, can impact on the patient’s experience, Carey explained. Having the information in near real time means issues can be put right before they have an impact.

“The facilities are looking at every single completed survey and acting on it in real time. It means if comments come up in the admission survey, as an example, someone is addressing it right then and there, not delaying it a day or two or three weeks.”

Other issues are more complicated to solve, but the surveys help identify problems and monitor the resolutions put in place to rectify them.

The admission survey, for example, asks patients if staff explained everything when they arrived. Data at the start of the project found this was not always happening, so the team implemented standardised processes which set out exactly what needs to be communicated to the patient upon arrival.

“We collaborated with our medical and clinical teams, along with some of our partner hospitals, to find out the key things the patient needs to know around what they can typically expect upon coming to a skilled nursing facility,” said Carey.

"It is about always driving change, looking for improvements and making that experience better and better for the next patient" 

“We came up with a one-pager, front and back that has all the information people need, such as contact information for the executive director of the director of nursing, the WiFi passwords, when they can expect to see to doctor and so on,” he said.

The second feedback survey comes after discharge. When the person is back in the community, they are contacted by BaneCare’s social services department.

Questions include whether discharge instructions were explained clearly, and if they had a full understanding their medication management, and follow up appointments.

“It is about always driving change, looking for improvements and making that experience better and better for the next patient,” said Carey.

Giving examples of where the discharge survey had changed the way the facilities work, Carey said they had identified problems with people not getting the food they had order. On the back of this information, communication channels between catering staff and patients were strengthened, leading to increased patient experience.

Pre-emptive action

Closed feedback loops allow healthcare facilities from clinics or clinical trial sites to identify problems, implement solutions, and, crucially, monitor their success.

Flexible platforms, such as Survey Monkey, allow teams to build personalised questionnaires and drill down into the relevant detail, such as the progress of a newly implemented initiatives for example, said Carey. It also allows the organisation to look at each facility individually and respond quickly.

“No one is perfect, but we're doing something right when a lot of our facilities are scoring higher than the top 10% performers in Core Q for long-term care,” said Carey.

“We have happy residents and happy patients in our facilities, and a lot of that work that feeds the Core Q score starts with the work that we're doing with Survey Monkey.”

About the author

Amanda Barrell is a freelance health and medical education journalist, editor and copywriter. She has worked on projects for pharma, charities and agencies, and has written extensively for patients, healthcare professionals and the general public.