By Katherine Virkstis, Vice President, Clinical Advisory Services
Nurses and patient care teams need the space and time to do their work with intention and presence. When care teams are present, they are better able to listen fully and completely, build trust, and promote healing. And when caregivers can foster this type of environment, it can spark joy for them and patients, deepen the connection they have with patients, and promote a positive human experience.
Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a caregiver crisis. The pandemic has contributed to increased turnover rates that are accelerating the nursing shortage, and the remaining healthcare workforce is strained, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
However, digital engagement technology can help relieve the burden on patient care teams, restoring the human connection between nurses and patients, and igniting a flywheel — an ongoing virtuous loop in which a positive care team experience leads to a positive patient experience, which further accelerates and improves the collective human experience in healthcare.
How patients and care teams can boost or diminish the human experience of healthcare
A patient’s experience isn’t based on a single interaction or event; it is shaped by numerous touch points across their entire healthcare journey — inside and outside of the hospital — and it includes family members, clinical and non-clinical care teams, and others within a community. In the article “Reexamining ‘Defining Patient Experience’ The Human Experience in Healthcare,” the authors provide the following definition of the human experience:
The human experience in healthcare integrates the sum of all interactions, every encounter among patients, families and care partners and the healthcare workforce. It is driven by the culture of healthcare organizations and systems that work tirelessly to support a healthcare ecosystem that operates within the breadth of the care continuum into the communities they serve and the ever-changing environmental landscapes in which they are situated. The human experience in health care ultimately is the fruit born from the core of patient experience itself.
In healthcare, the personal experiences of care teams and patients are inextricably linked. A good day for a patient can contribute to a positive experience for a nurse, and vice versa. When caregivers feel joy in their work, it can lead to a more positive experience for their patients. This can set a flywheel in motion that further promotes a positive experience for care teams and patients alike.
A hard truth is that the reverse is also true: When patient care teams feel pulled in too many directions, their patients may observe and internalize some of that stress themselves. This can contribute to a negative experience for patients, which may further exacerbate the burden for care teams and negatively impact job satisfaction and engagement.
Health systems are currently facing an unprecedented workforce crisis. RN turnover and vacancy rates broke records in 2021. Median bedside RN turnover was 18%, up from 14.8% in 2020. This nursing shortage is expected to persist into the next decade. There are more than 195,000 openings for registered nurses projected through 2031 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. These record high RN and support staff vacancies, a largely novice workforce, and a revolving door of travel talent leave care teams stretched too thin and nurses as the last line of defense. As a result, 81% of RNs report that they are exhausted and 77% feel overwhelmed.
Digital engagement technology can improve the patient and care team experience
Now more than ever, health systems must protect nurses from spending time on work that falls outside of core nursing responsibilities. Healthcare leaders won’t be able to rely on traditional workforce tactics or pre-pandemic staffing models moving forward.
Technology holds tremendous potential for relieving the burden on the clinical nurse by enabling some responsibilities to be automated and more expedient, freeing time for nurses to prioritize most critical patient needs. Technology can make life easier for medical professionals and patients alike. It can help relieve the burden on the clinical nurse by enabling some responsibilities to be automated and more expedient, freeing time for nurses to prioritize most critical patient needs.
Technology can also assist patients in getting the care they need with more convenient and accessible options. People have long been able to bank, shop, book travel, and much more with the click of a button or a swipe of a finger. Engagement via digital technology has rapidly become the preferred form of communication for many.
In 2000, just 0.5% of the U.S. population used text messaging; in 2022, 98% of adults in the United States have access to mobile devices with text messaging services. The need to scale clinician impact through digital engagement technology is clear — to drive both efficiency and care quality. What might be less obvious is that patients are key to achieving that efficiency. Patients have become accustomed to using mobile apps that enable faster self-service with more visibility. Patients now expect to receive healthcare information on their phones or digital devices, and many are willing to make a change to get the convenience and access to care they desire, with as many a 50% of patients saying they would leave their healthcare provider for a better digital experience — something that would have been highly unlikely just a few years ago.
Digital engagement technology has the potential to reach patients and engage care teams through the same tools with which they are most comfortable and familiar. Consumer-centric and mobile-first engagement solutions have proven an effective way to empower patients using the same technology that provides relief to nurses. Through an intuitive, user-friendly experience, patients can more easily and efficiently complete tasks that they want to do (e.g., order food, watch a movie, send a request). This same technology can also prompt patients to take action on responsibilities that care teams typically must manage (e.g., viewing patient education or responding to discharge questions) further completing the flywheel.
Digital engagement technology similarly has the potential to improve the patient experience beyond the inpatient setting. Finding a care provider, scheduling an appointment, and navigating every touchpoint in between can be fraught with challenges for patients. Digital engagement technology can help organizations engage patients who are not actively participating in their healthcare journeys and help navigate patients to in-network providers and schedule appointments. This high-tech approach can then be combined with a high-touch element that acts as an extension of the care team, leveraging virtual care navigators when human intervention or escalation is warranted.
Improving the human experience of healthcare also improves outcomes
Get Well’s digital engagement solutions can be embedded into the workflow to help streamline select care team responsibilities, thereby allowing nurses to focus on most pressing patient care needs. SMART app technology and native messaging within the EHR can also effectively provide real-time updates, enabling staff to prioritize those patients who need immediate attention.
To date, Get Well’s technology has been implemented in more than 700 provider organizations, more than 200 clinics, and installed in more than 110,000 hospital beds, providing digital engagement technology to more than 5 million patients each year, with patients reporting satisfaction rates of more than 90%.
When patients are satisfied with their healthcare experience, and the care team is satisfied with the level of care they are able to provide, not only are organizations able to see improvements in the overall human experience of healthcare, but there are also financial implications and a direct return on investment. For example, one 300-bed hospital leveraging GetWell Inpatient successfully saved more than $4 million in nursing productivity.
Beyond the inpatient setting, Adventist Health partnered with Get Well to develop a digital engagement strategy to identify adults who had not had a routine wellness appointment in the past 18-24 months. Digital outreach consisted of personalized SMS messages and phone calls to engage patients and offer assistance with scheduling an appointment The program is now consistently reaching more than 90% of patients who are targeted for outreach and helped the organization realize more than $90 million in reclaimed revenue within 12 months.
Leading health systems are leveraging mobile-first patient engagement solutions to benefit patients and clinicians together and seamlessly facilitate interactions between the two — because when a clinician is supported, they are able to deliver enhanced patient care, and when a patient or family member has a positive experience, that enhances the clinician experience. Together, with hospitals, health systems, and patients, we can reimagine the patient experience with a keen understanding that the patient experience should be an extension of the human experience.
Learn more about how Get Well’s digital engagement platform can help create a better experience for patient and the care team. Schedule a demo today.