Patients happier if they are `connected’
Mobile phone chargers can decrease anxiety
What one thing would help to decrease your anxiety?" When hospital employees asked patients and family members this question when developing a "concierge cart" for inpatients, the most common answer, by far, was "a cell phone charger."
"It never occurred to me that this was the number one answer they would report. Who knew?" asks Fé R. Ermitaño, RN, BSN, project manager for the patient experience, patient relations, and service at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.
Patient relations staff and volunteers stocked the chargers in the cart, but these were only available to inpatients during limited hours, and not in registration areas.
Shortly afterward, Ermitano noticed a kiosk with cell phone chargers in an airport. "I thought it would be awesome if we could put this in the hospital at very strategic points, where people are waiting," she says.
Ermitano contacted a vendor and obtained approval for the plan. "We decided to put the chargers in areas where they would do the most good, which ended up being the registration areas," she says. Three kiosks are in registration areas, one is in a family waiting area, and a fifth is being added in an outpatient registration area.
The infection control, engineering, security, and legal departments all were involved in the process. "The number of hurdles I had to go through to get this in medical center was much more than I expected," she says.
Opportunity to help
After the kiosks were implemented, patient access employees were given quick in-services on what to tell patients about them.
"Every member of the registration staff knows the kiosks are part of the menu of services we provide patients and families," she says.
For example, if the spouse of a patient tells a registrar, "I just dropped off my husband at the ED, and my cell phone battery is low. Do you know where I can charge it?" the registrar can respond, "Absolutely, we have a cell phone charger on the wall behind you. If you need assistance in using it, please let me know." Here are some benefits that patient access has seen from the mobile charging units:
- Patient relations staff, who are located next to a main registration area, no longer field continual requests from patients asking for cell phone chargers.
- Patient access employees appreciate being able to use the chargers themselves.
- Patients' responses to knowing that the chargers are available to them has been positive.
The evidence is anecdotal, as the kiosks are still newly implemented, but Ermitano plans to survey patients and family more formally in the coming months.
Members of the hospital’s volunteer staff will conduct 50 hours of observation of the kiosks over two weeks to monitor usage, answer users’ questions, and ask users questions such as, "How do you feel about our cell phone charger kiosks?" and "How can we improve this service for you?"
"It’s not just a cell phone charger; it’s a lifeline. It’s really more about keeping the patient connected with the outside world while they are in the hospital," says Ermitano. "It shows we are supportive of all their needs, not just their medical care."
• Fé R. Ermitaño, RN, BSN, Project Manager for the Patient Experience, Patient Relations and Service, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle. Phone: (206) 341-1615. Email: Fe.Ermitano@vmmc.org.