Make the Discharge Process Count to Reach High Patient Satisfaction

by Betsy Kraft, Enterprise Visibility (SPOT) Clinical Project Site Manager | Infinite Leap

First impressions often dictate how we feel about events in our lives. Think about sports or music events you attended, or your last hotel stay. There is no doubt that our perception of the experience is shaped by our first impression – that’s why hotel lobbies look grand and events start with a big bang.
You can notice the same trend in healthcare. Hospitals don’t skimp on designing dazzling foyers or putting money into remodeling their entrances.

The focus on making a good first impression goes beyond a beautiful physical presence. Hospitals train staff who greet patients and their families, and they invest in technologies like mobile phone wayfinding so patients don’t feel lost.

However, from my experience, healthcare systems don’t always put enough attention on the end of the patient experience. In my view, making the last moments memorable counts as much, or maybe even more, than the first impression.

Please think back to your experience at a concert or a hotel stay. I bet you still remember how long it took you to leave the venue, or to find the luggage cart at the hotel so you could load your bags and be on your way. Maybe you remember the person who held the door and said, “Thanks for coming.” The same need for a smooth transition, marking the end of your experience, takes place in the hospital environment.

Here are 3 tips to make the discharge process the most positive for your patient:

1. Redesign Your Processes to Optimize Workflow
Once you notify a patient that he/she will be discharged, you need to focus your attention on getting that patient “checked out” fast. You might rethink your existing processes—for example prepping discharge documents ahead of time, or staggering discharges throughout the day instead of having a fixed morning discharge window. Our healthcare clients also leverage RTLS-enabled patient flow solutions to get real-time information on patient status and location, as well as dashboards and reports to identify when and where bottlenecks occur in the workflow so appropriate steps can be taken to resolve them. Care providers that must see the patient on discharge day, can easily find the patients, they have visibility into which providers are with the patient, and can efficiently fit in their visit prior to discharge, without prolonging the patients’ stay.

2. Have Visibility into Your Resources for Faster Response Times
I know it sounds trivial, but you need to know if you have resources available to make the discharge process work. The patient’s anxiety will go up for sure if the patient is ready for a discharge from a clinical perspective, but there is no transport staff or a wheelchair available to take them to their car. One way our healthcare clients manage this is by using a Real-Time Location System (RTLS), which allows them to see availability and location of both their staff and assets, to quickly and efficiently locate available wheelchairs and staff to accommodate the patient’s discharge.

3. Train Your Staff on How to Respond to Patient Feedback
Do you put the same amount of training into staff that interact with patients at the beginning of their visit as at the end? Your schedulers and patient transport staff should get equal or even more training than your greeters and front desk staff. Why? They will be the ones who will hear all the good, bad, and ugly about a patient’s stay. Make sure those staff know how to respond to patient complaints and how they can pass along feedback they hear from patients. To provide an easy way for patients to provide their feedback on the spot, some of our healthcare clients set up kiosks in outpatient clinics or ancillary services, such as pharmacy, with a feedback app. This allows patients to provide instant feedback, and for staff to be able to respond before patients even leave the hospital.

There are many more things you could do to ensure your patients have a positive experience at the end of their visit; focus on the last memorable moments as much, or more, as on making a good first impression – you will see the impact it will make in reaching high patient satisfaction.

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