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4 Steps to Improving Patient Experience—One Hospital's Story

Posted by Christopher Smalley on Jan 27, 2016 8:30:00 AM


In 2011, the BirthPlace at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Plymouth (BID-Plymouth), in Massachusetts, was losing patients to other maternity units, and the hospital considered closing it. Instead, we decided to rebrand the BirthPlace and our outpatient OB/GYN and Midwifery practices with a focus on improving the patient experience.

We determined that we could impact patient experience best by working cross-functionally—aligning the marketing, clinical and IT teams—and implementing digital health tools that supported the new brand by improving patient-provider communication and increasing patient satisfaction.

We were right! Here’s how our hospital did it and what we learned.

1. We broke down silos.

We created a council of marketing, clinical, business and IT staff to address our needs and goals.
  • Marketing wanted to build BirthPlace and outpatient OB reputation, connection and loyalty. We wanted to drive website traffic and find opportunities to promote our services—and we wanted both the BirthPlace and OB offices to feel personal, which we believed would drive repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Clinical wanted patients to be better educated and more prepared when they arrived at the BirthPlace. Our clinical team believed that providing patients digital health information about their pregnancy would create more time for personal attention to patients, and lead to fewer FAQ calls, and better patient outcomes.
  • IT wanted to create a seamless experience for health data to flow as needed between the two groups.

2. We acknowledged our challenges.

Interestingly, we found that all three departments shared the same three pain points—lack of time, money and people. We simply did not have the resources to achieve our goals if we did not think outside the box.

Improve patient experience with digital health technology

3. We began exploring digital health technology.

We believed that a Health Information Technology (HIT) solution could achieve the teams’ goals without costing a lot of time, money or staff resources. More importantly, it could improve patient experience at all points where patients interact with the hospital. We also believed that approaching patient experience from marketing, clinical and IT perspectives would create efficiencies that would positively impact patient experience. We decided to start with a focus on our expectant and new parent population.

Hitting #ptexperience from all angles with #HIT helped @BIDPlymouth rebrand w/o a lot of time, money or staff. Click to tweet.

Digital patient engagement solutions, we discovered, would meet everyone’s needs—marketing, clinical, IT and the patient. Why? Because this kind of solution is automated (which saves time), builds a connection between hospital and patient, drives website traffic, saves money (since it can help to prevent complications and readmissions) and generates new revenue (by building our reputation). It also supports and educates patients exactly when they need it and in a personalized, targeted way that would otherwise take numerous hours to do manually (saving staff resources).

Patient engagement solutions also help manage the entire episode of care, allowing us to connect with patients from the moment they learn they’re pregnant through the early childhood years. That sustained relationship with patients is priceless. We can easily reach beyond the hospital walls to connect with our patients where they are—on a smartphone, tablet, desktop or laptop.

4. We implemented an Application Programming Interface, or API, to connect our patient engagement solution to other digital health tools.

Our IT team was critical here—and this was all part of their ultimate goal. Making data flow efficiently between the hospital EHR, practice software and patient engagement solutions really makes for a seamless patient experience! The API has enabled us to provide our full expectant and new parent population with continuous access to the hospital and digital patient education without increasing the burden on staff time or resources.

The Results: More Satisfied Patients and Better Hospital Workflows Have Driven Growth and Patient Experience

With our renewed focus on the patient experience, and our digital strategy and API securely in place, BID-Plymouth nearly quadruped the population of expectant and new parents receiving digital health communications in the first six months of 2015, compared to 2014 (503 vs. 116).

These patient-provider communications helped improve brand awareness and drive word-of-mouth that had significant impact, including:

  • Annual births increased from an average of 543 in 2010 to 707 in 2015.
  • Patients were choosing BID-Plymouth over closer hospitals, coming from as far as 40 miles away.

We continue to build the BirthPlace’s brand and high patient satisfaction scores. In a recent patient satisfaction survey, 94% of our patients reported have a stronger sense of connection to the hospital because of our patient engagement solutions.

It all comes down to connecting the digital dots. Once we broke through the hospital silos and implemented a digital patient engagement solution, we were able to revive the BirthPlace and our outpatient OB/GYN & Midwifery brand and improve the patient experience. Employing technology has ultimately simplified our workflows across marketing, clinical and IT.

See Christopher Smalley speak live at the New England Society of Healthcare Communications (NESHCo) Spring Conference Thursday, June 2 in Providence.

Topics: Improving Patient Outcomes, Patient Experience