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Approaches For Improving Your HCAHPS Score

Posted on June 27, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Improving your HCAHPS scores gets easier if you make smart use of your existing technology infrastructure. To make that work, however, you have to know which areas have the greatest impact on the score.

According to healthcare communications vendor Spok, hospitals can boost their scores by focusing on five particularly important areas which loom large in patient satisfaction. Of course, I’m sure these approaches solve problems addressed by Spok solutions, but I thought they were worth reviewing anyway. These five areas include:

  • Speed up response to the call button
    Relying on the call button itself doesn’t get the job done. If calls go to a central nursing station, it takes several steps to eventually get back to the patient, it’s possible to drop the ball. Instead, hospitals can send requests directly from the call button to the correct caregiver’s mobile device. This works whether providers use s a Wi-Fi phone, smartphone, pager, voice badge or tablet.
  • Lower the noise volume
    Hospitals are aware that noise is an issue, and try everything from taking the squeak out of meal cart wheels to posting signs reminding all to keep the conversations quiet. However, this will only go so far. Spok recommends hospitals take the additional step of integrating the monitoring of equipment alarms with staff assignments systems, and as above, routing nurse call notifications to the appropriate patient care providers mobile device. Fewer overhead notifications means less noise.
  • Address patient pain faster
    To help patients with the pain as quickly as possible, give staff access to your full directory, which allows nurses to quickly locate provider contact information and reach them with requests for pain medication orders. In addition, roll out a secure texting solution which allows nurses to share detailed patient health information safely.
  • Make information sharing simpler
    Look at gaps in getting information to patients and providers, and streamline your communications process. For example, Spok notes, if communication between team members is efficient, the time between a test order and the arrival of the phlebotomist can get shorter, or the time it takes the patient transport team to bring them to the imaging department for a scan can be reduced. One way to do this is to have your technology trigger automatic message to the appropriate party when an order is placed. Also, use the same to approach to automatically notify providers when test results are available.
  • Speed up discharge
    There are many understandable reasons why the patient discharge process can drag out, but patients don’t care what issues hospitals are addressing in the background. One way to speed things up is to set up your EMR to send a message the entire care team’s mobile devices. This makes it easier for providers to coordinate discharge approval and patient instructions. The faster the discharge process, the happier patients usually are.

Of course, addressing the patient care workflow goes well beyond the type of technology hospitals use for coordination and messaging. Getting this part of the process right is a good thing, though.

EMRs Can Improve Outcomes For Weekend Hospital Surgeries

Posted on April 7, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Unfortunately, it’s well documented that people often have worse outcomes when they’re treated in hospitals over the weekend. For example, one recent study from the Association of Academic Physiatrists found that older adults admitted with head trauma over the weekend have a 14 percent increased risk of dying versus those admitted on a weekday.

But if a hospital makes good use of its EMR, these grim stats can be improved, according to a new study published in JAMA Surgery. In the study, researchers found that use of EMRs can significantly improve outcomes for hospital patients who have surgeries over the weekend.

To conduct the study, which was done by Loyola Medicine, a group of researchers identified some EMR characteristics which they felt could overcome the “weekend effect.” The factors they chose included using electronic systems designed to schedule surgeries seamlessly as well as move patients in and out of hospital rooms efficiently.

Their theories were based on existing research suggesting that patients at hospitals with electronic operating room scheduling were 33 percent less likely to experience a weekend effect than hospitals using paper-based scheduling. In addition, studies concluded patients at hospitals with electronic bed-management systems were 35 percent less likely to experience the weekend effect.

To learn more about the weekend effect, researchers analyzed the records provided by the AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Database.  Researchers looked at treatment and outcomes for 2,979 patients admitted to Florida hospitals for appendectomies, acute hernia repairs and gallbladder removals.

The research team found that 32 percent (946) of patients experienced the weekend effect, which they defined as having longer hospital stays than expected. Meanwhile, it concluded that patients at hospitals with high-speed EMR connectivity, EMR in the operating room, electronic operating room scheduling, CPOE systems and electronic bed management did better. (The analysis was conducted with the help of Loyola’s predictive analytics program.)

Their research follows on a 2015 Loyola study, published in Annals of Surgery, which named five factors that reduced the impact of the weekend effect. These included full adoption of electronic medical records, home health programs, pain management programs, increased registered nurse-to-bed ratios and inpatient physical rehabilitation.

Generally speaking, the study results offer good news, as they fulfill some the key hopes hospitals had when installing their EMR in the first place. But I was left wondering whether the study conflated cause and effect. Specifically, I found myself wondering whether hospitals with these various systems boosted their outcomes with technology, or whether hospitals that invested in these technologies could afford to provide better overall care.

It’s also worth noting that several of the improvement factors cited in the 2015 study did not involve technology at all. Even if a hospital has excellent IT systems in place, putting home health, pain management and physical rehabilitation in place – not to mention higher nurse-to-patient ratios – calls for different thinking and a different source of funding.

Still, it’s always good to know that health IT can generate beneficial results, especially high-ticket items like EMRs. Even incremental progress is still progress.