Customer relationship management software being used at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut improved patient satisfaction scores considerably between last September and this past March.

In terms of Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores, the facility saw increases of four to 13 points in the past six months, says Michael Bennick, MD, medical director of patient experience at Yale New Haven. The facility did particularly well in metrics that include staff responsiveness, room quietness and cleanliness, nurse and physician communication, discharge procedures, pain management and environmental issues.

Yale-New Haven Health System
Yale-New Haven Health System

There are obvious benefits to increasing patient satisfaction, but higher HCAHPS scores also can boost patient loyalty and reimbursement from public and private insurers, Bennick notes.

The hospital is using small tablet computers to enable patients to document their experience, giving clinicians and staff real-time insights into understanding what patients like and don’t like. Then, they’re turning that data into an opportunity to make changes when necessary or answer patient questions, says Tami McCumons, senior program manager in the information technology services unit.

For instance, if a patient notes that the room or environment was noisy, it’s an opportunity to explain why those noises exist. “We want to know now if a patient is upset, rather than have it remain with them during the stay,” says Lisa Stump, CIO.

The tablets and patient assessment software come from customer relationship management vendor Humm Systems. An early proof-of-concept program assessed the degree to which patients would complete an assessment, and how staff and clinicians would react. The hope, Stump says, was to get a mix of willing young and senior patients along with a nurse and physician champion, whom they found in the inpatient surgical oncology unit.

The device had to be simple and intuitive for patients. Yale New Haven had patient care assistants explain the device during morning rounds, and it generally took less than a minute for patients to complete an assessment.

Last fall, a six-month pilot project started with seven hospital units. Now, 12 units and several outpatient facilities are offering the assessment tablets to patients. The number of completed surveys has increased eight-fold, compared with previous ways of assessing patient satisfaction, Bennick says. The tablets, he adds, “build a stronger bridge between us and the patient,” because identified patient concerns now go to nurse managers and environmental control leaders.

Results of surveys are displayed on a dashboard, with positive comments highlighted to encourage pride in what clinicians and staff members are doing, Bennick says. Also during testing, the organization found out that less can be more; they are only asking four or five questions that take patients about 30 seconds to complete. And nurse/physician communication with patients has increased by about 70 percent. Adoption of the tablets initially was slow, but as more patients permitted their comments to be seen, staff began to look at the tool as a resource rather than a task, CIO Stump says.

Humm Systems initially targeted its product at hospitality industries, but when Yale New Haven learned of the technology, it became the healthcare developmental partner for the company.

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