Organizations prioritize reaching out to sick babies’ families

Technology is part of a growing strategy of incorporating families’ input and reactions to care, paving the way for improvement.

This article was developed as part of an exclusive interview by HDM editor-in-chief, Fred Bazzoli with Children’s Health of Orange County, North Memorial Health Care, and Feedtrail, discussing success factors for patient and family experiences. Watch the full interview

The birth of a child is often idealized. Reality can be jarring and traumatizing – premature births, emergency C-sections, unforeseen complications can find a tiny life in a neonatal intensive care unit, with anxious parents and family members on an emotional roller coaster.

Hospitals can bring cutting-edge medicine to the bedside, but more facilities are also focusing in on the need to take care of the families that surround sick babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

But the multiplicity of little patients and their families make this caregiving task complex. This communication challenge is prompting organizations to bring specialized technology to support efforts to minister to the emotional and information needs of these families.

The use of this niche technology enables better communication, offers tools to monitor families’ perception of care and clinical interactions, and reveals important insights into ways to better engage family members. The research around NICUs also provides insight into other patient and family engagement efforts, leading organizations contend.

"CHOC has an online family advisory panel that encompasses 3,500 members of past and present patients"

For example, at Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOC), the organization has adopted a standard of care for both its patients and their families, and it is actively engaging families in ongoing initiatives. For example, it includes families in decision making meetings conducted by its multidisciplinary care teams, and it has a family advisory council with more than 25 members that meet monthly.

Also, CHOC has an online family advisory panel that encompasses 3,500 members of past and present patients, said Kathryn Burton, manager of patient and family experience for CHOC, which operates hospitals in Orange and Mission Viejo, as well as a regional network of primary and specialty care clinics serving four counties.

The organization is looking to technology from Feedtrail, a Raleigh, N.C.-based experience management company that has solutions to help healthcare organizations with family members.

Such technology is helpful because existing patient and family satisfaction measures don’t provide enough insight to help organizations make headway on patient and family experience, said Kelsi Anderson, manager of analytics and customer experience at North Memorial Health, a Minneapolis-based health care system with two hospitals and more than 350 care providers.

North Memorial, like most other healthcare organizations, has used its scores from the CAHPS Hospital Survey (HCAHPS) to measure customer perceptions of their experience in its facilities, but realized the organization was only “chasing HCAHPS,” and needed to find better ways to measure performance to differentiate itself, by its customer service, in the highly competitive Twin Cities market.

North Memorial Health - image

The system turned to Feedtrail to help it better ascertain what patients and families think of its services, particularly to get feedback in close proximity to when care services are provided, Anderson said.

The technology company has developed a QR code at its welcome center that enables visitors, friends and families to provide feedback at any point of the care process.

Special efforts are being made to gain feedback from patients treated in the NICU, as well as in labor and delivery departments. North Memorial have automated surveys related to patient care for those in the NICU and labor and delivery departments that go out about 48 hours after admission. These surveys are sent again to at least one parent of any baby who’s treated in the NICU for longer than a week.

Feedback and findings gleaned from the NICU feedback also is being repurposed in other areas within North Memorial. For example, these learnings are being applied within facilities’ intensive care units, where there is a need for effective communication, especially with families of patients,

The organization also is using the Feedtrail-developed surveys to assess performance of hospitalists, and it was able to increase response rates by personalizing verbiage in the surveys to make it appear like it was coming directly from the physician for whom feedback was being sought.

That type of specificity in results is integral to the vision CHOC has for improving performance and fulfilling its vision of engaging all those family and friends who surround each of its young patients.

"We need meaningful results (from surveys) to make meaningful changes"

“The NICU is a unique area. We have three different patient populations – some are there for a few days, some for a few hours and some are there for weeks,” Burton said. “We had been using only one set of survey questions, so we couldn’t customize them for each group. We got small sample sizes back and it was difficult to make improvements. We need meaningful results (from surveys) to make meaningful changes.”

The Feedtrail solution is expected to help CHOC “dive deeper and collect specific insights into specific units to help us understand why we are getting high-level scores” from other broader rating systems,” Burton said. “If we want to explore specific aspects of the patient experience, this allows us to dig deep and understand what we can do specifically to make an impact.”

The assessment capability also is expected to help CHOC in assessing the work of professionals in the emergency department, who are not always recognized for their heroic efforts, Burton noted. “We can recognize the nurses who rarely hear the public praise, but are trying to grapple with burnout.”

“The patients can’t speak for themselves, and clinicians can’t be around every day with every patient, so it’s important to be intentional with engagement"

It’s important to gauge granular feedback from the extended tribe that surrounds young patients in hospital settings, because those patients are unable to speak for themselves and because their families are best able to reflect back information on care quality and engagement efforts, said Paul Jaglowski, co-founder of and chief strategy officer for Feedtrail.

“The patients can’t speak for themselves, and clinicians can’t be around every day with every patient, so it’s important to be intentional with engagement, with surveying and supporting the patient,” Jaglowski said. Family members “are the ones experiencing those interactions, talking with nurses on a daily basis.”

Personalization and granularity in getting crucial family feedback is a key to successful engagement, he believes. Feedback mechanisms should enable family members to respond whenever they are most likely to be completely honest and thorough in what they say.

“It’s important to be engaging (families) during their care experience. It doesn’t make sense to do it post discharge – you have to be thoughtful and realistic about the care journey,” he said. “Granularity is needed to really understand how they can deliver exceptional experiences.”

Watch the full interview - Video: Thinking about PX data collection processes differently

This article is part of a Patient Experience series produced by HDM and KLAS Research. The program aired in October 2021. Visit the HDM KLASroom and see the full presentations plus great supporting learning content from the series: Traversing the Patient Experience Ecosystem.

The HDM KLASroom

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