With a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, there are some lessons learned from the start of the pandemic that can be useful in steering healthcare organizations forward. Interestingly, a recent Accenture survey reports that 9 out of 10 patients feel the care they received from their healthcare provider was as good or better than before COVID-19. A contributing factor to this positive response is the role digital tools now play in managing care.
Clearly, digital is disrupting the traditional model of healthcare in nearly every way. From telehealth applications to cloud-based data management, digital technologies can make healthcare services more efficient, effective and patient-centered. But as facilities and organizations scrambled to meet the demands brought on by the pandemic, digital healthcare solutions have become vital for supporting providers and patients in the struggle against COVID-19.
Organizations across the care continuum have had to find new ways to provide safe, quality care that meets providers, patients and their families’ needs during this rapidly evolving crisis. The Healthcare Ideas Community, a joint initiative launched by Medallia and Ipsos, has enabled healthcare professionals to crowdsource ideas and collaborate on solutions.
One example was how Wes Williams, PhD, CIO of the Mental Health Center of Denver, made a few adjustments to the organization’s standard procedures to make telehealth work for more than 4,000 patients. Another example recently shared on the Healthcare Ideas Community came from Anne Brown, DNP, NEA-BC, Executive Director, Office of Patient Experience, at Cone Health, a North Carolina-based healthcare group.
According to that same Accenture study, 16% of patients felt very afraid of possible exposure during a visit at their healthcare provider. As a response to that, Brown and her team at Cone Health found that virtual communication tools could solve the need to modify visitor policies and keep family members informed.
“We wanted to reduce the sense of isolation that patients were feeling due to restricted visiting and we discovered that using virtual tools provided a human connection,” Brown said. “Patients enjoyed seeing their loved ones and staying connected to their friends.”
What Brown discovered was that many patients found the limitations on in-person visits provided more flexibility and allowed for more connection with the outside world. Patients could better schedule “visits” throughout the day, allowing for periods of peace and quiet. The new rule takes the burden of choice off of patients who sometimes must decide between “entertaining” their visitors or hurting their feelings by telling them not to visit.
COVID-19 has made virtual visits the norm. Education on virtual technology for providers eased the transition to the digital world, and now Brown is seeing that patients are much more comfortable using technology to visit with their loved ones.
Even though this began as an urgent necessity, virtual visits have become a welcome asset for many patients who are trying to find a balance between support and peaceful recovery in an unprecedented healthcare setting.
Leader rounding is a key method for senior members of an organization to meet with staff in their work environment — and with patients and family in their care environment — to proactively improve staff and patient experiences. However, the need for extreme precautions during COVID-19 has forced healthcare organizations to turn to virtual tools to collect feedback from staff and monitor patient care.
“Families are always considered part of the care team and we realized we had to find ways to include them in these discussions,” Brown said. “Using virtual tools allowed family members to hear the physician’s assessment and plan, to ask questions and to see their loved ones. Another positive outcome was that families developed virtual relationships with the care team, thus decreasing concerns about their loved one’s care.”
This has proved effective in some surprising ways. In fact, they have found ways to have difficult conversations like end-of-life care discussions in compassionate, meaningful ways. Care team members are updating family members in real-time, allowing them to virtually participate in a care team meeting and ask questions on the spot.
Video meetings give more flexibility to when and where everyone can meet, and while the transition cannot be described as easy, Brown sees acceptance and efficacy improving over time and the virtual option remaining long after the pandemic.
Even before COVID-19, modern healthcare was a complex endeavor that touched all of our lives. During the pandemic, navigating the healthcare process has become even more complicated.
The measures implemented to meet the demands of COVID-19 have nudged healthcare organizations to consider new ideas to improve patient care and service delivery. The positive outcomes from these innovations have shown they are worth integrating into a long-term model of care. The Healthcare Ideas Community continues to provide a forum for healthcare leaders to discuss and collaborate on these new solutions like virtual visits and rounding.