Public hospitals seek input from patients

A growing number of public hospitals are engaging their patients in a conversation on how to improve service, according to the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM), which refers to a story in “Modern Healthcare.” New committees and boards have been set up across the country, with membership comprised of patients or patients’ families. These committees seek the voice and the view of the patient as it relates to how care is delivered within the hospital. The timing for this trend is not by accident.

Patient input and satisfaction have come back into the spotlight due to incentive programs recently put in place by the federal government. The Affordable Care Act carried with it both stick and carrot approaches to encourage hospitals and other patient care facilities to place patient care first.

The new Medicare Value Based Purchasing Program serves as the stick. The program focuses on the whole of patient care, including patient readmissions, shifting away from the traditional fee for service reimbursement model. Hospitals can lose from 1-3% of federal reimbursements for high readmission numbers.

The carrot, on the other hand, comes in the form of an electronic health record (EHR) incentive program that rewards hospitals for using the new technology. The program is still in its first stage, focusing on raw implementation of EHR systems, but the second stage will focus on meaningful use of the records. The program mandates that EHR technology must provide patients with an online means to view, download, and transmit selected data. More information on the EHR Incentive Program can be found at http://go.cms.gov/OWhNS1.

The Gordon and Berry Moore Foundation is also providing a carrot with its Patient Care Program. The program works toward eliminating patient harm with a two-pronged approach. They emphasize meaningful patient and family engagement, and a re-engineering of hospital processes. In turn, they believe that healthcare will become more cost effective and be more respectful to the patients and families they serve. To work toward the goal, they are planning to give out $500 million in grants to hospitals willing to alter their patient care model.

Ideas that come from these patient committees or boards can provide simple and effective ideas for hospitals. A hospital in northern California had a logical policy that all emergency patients had to be funneled through the emergency department. This process included psychiatric patients who would be forced to have psychiatric episodes in the general ED. It was not until the hospital listened to advocacy from the mother of a mental health patient that the policy was changed to allow direct access to the psychiatric emergency department. This simple shift restored a sense of dignity and respect to an entire group of patients.

Another hospital in Oakland, CA, was shocked to hear about issues that patients experience when working with multiple hospital units. In this instance, physician rounds at 2 p.m. meant that a nurse wouldn’t order a prescription until 2:30, which left little time for a patient to fill it in the discharge pharmacy before it closed at 3 p.m. This schedule might delay a discharge and prevent another patient from getting an inpatient bed.

Still, other hospitals are requiring staff to attend patient care events that include patient panels and best practice discussions.

The original article from “Modern Healthcare” is available at http://bit.ly/YOd0cZ.