An emergency department is directly linked to a health system’s patient experience. Often, the ED represents the patient’s initial experience with a health system and creates a unique opportunity to establish a positive first impression. However, these visits frequently bring stress and uncertainty for the patient. Overcrowding, poor communication, a lack of patient privacy, and an uncomfortable environment continue to be issues that impact patients’ experiences in the ED. In fact, studies have shown that patient satisfaction scores at hospitals are often lower for visits beginning in the emergency department.
This is why patient experience in the emergency department is an expanding area of focus for many healthcare leaders. According to Modern Healthcare, when an emergency department is optimized, it allows for improved patient flow, better patient safety, and enhanced clinical quality. As a result, there are often higher patient satisfaction scores, allowing the hospital to reach its financial, clinical, and operational goals more effectively. Here are three tips to improve your health system's patient experience in the ED and avoid readmissions.
Create an Efficient Triage Process
Patients expect that upon their arrival to the ED, a qualified individual will immediately determine their emergent needs by completing an initial assessment. Unfortunately, this type of traditional ED triage can produce a patient flow backlog. Health systems should consider utilizing an online scheduling solution to prevent a backlog of patients and make the triage process more efficient.
Our Intelligent Scheduling solution allows patients to self-report symptoms and guides them to the best venue of care based on their symptoms. Patients can quickly know if they need to visit the emergency department or if their symptoms indicate that scheduling an appointment with their provider is more appropriate. Additionally, it improves patient access while reducing your cost to serve and overutilization of the emergency department.
Even more, consider utilizing virtual waiting rooms in your emergency department. For example, if a patient visits your ED and is deemed non-urgent, your health system can place the patient in the queue and have them wait in their car or at home until it is their turn to be seen.
Improve Quality and Frequency of Communication
Patients want to know what to expect when they enter your emergency department. Is your health system using a virtual waiting room? How do patients check-in? While patients want their health system to communicate with them more frequently during their ED journey, it can be a difficult task—especially when staff are stretched further than ever before. Even more, according to our U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey, patient satisfaction fell 13% for provider communications when tracking healthcare consumers who were "very satisfied" before and since COVID-19. This is where technology like IQ Navigator can help.
Stericycle's new IQ Navigator solution integrates with our Intelligent Scheduling solution to bring a consumer-like experience to the emergency department. IQ Navigator is a patient navigation tool that provides patients with up-to-date information on their visit and care status in the ED. IQ Navigator can help address the dip in patient satisfaction because it provides patients with complete visibility into their next step in the ED. Health systems that utilize IQ Navigator have reported improved HCAPS scores, increased post-ED follow-up visits, and more scheduled patients. Even more, IQ Navigator can help address the 13% decrease in patient satisfaction of provider communication since COVID-19.
Provide Post-Discharge Follow-Up
Discharging a patient always involves some level of risk. Health systems must ask themselves, will the patient being discharged worsen and then be readmitted to the ED next week? Or even worse, stay at home while they continue to decline? Part of this risk can be avoided by having patients book their follow-up appointment prior to leaving your facility. This can help prevent unnecessary readmissions and ensure that patients don't forget to schedule their follow-up appointment.
After patients are discharged, health systems can continue to positively impact the patient experience by emphasizing follow-up. Our Post-Discharge Services connect patients with a clinical or non-clinical agent within 24 to 48 hours after discharge. This allows your health system to inquire about any symptoms the patient may be experiencing and if they're adhering to their care plans. Even more, our Post-Discharge Services provide real-time escalation when a critical question or matter arises.
Additionally, providing follow-up appointments and post-discharge services are particularly important for COVID-19 patients. In fact, a study from England revealed that the readmission rate for COVID-19 patients is 3.5 times greater than all other hospital patients. Ensure that COVID-19 patients don't readmit by providing targeted and personalized follow-up via email, text, and voice.
Providing communication throughout the patient's ED journey, creating an efficient triage process, and conducting post-discharge follow-up helps prevent readmissions, increase patient satisfaction, and ultimately improve your patient experience in the ED. To learn more about how our Post-Discharge Services can provide proactive follow-up and improve patient outcomes, download our data sheet.