Modern communication technology is truly changing patients into customers. An irritated patient who’s been waiting “too long” in your emergency room can now pass the time by criticizing your hospital on one of several health and patient care satisfaction rating websites.

The criticism may not always be fair or accurate, but perception is the personal reality of each patient who comes to your hospital facility for care, and it’s playing a bigger role than ever before in the success of your enterprise.

Writing in Hospitals & Health Networks, (Creating a Culture of Patient Satisfaction, March 2013)authors William Seidman and Rick Grbavac make an interesting case highlighting the growing role of social media in healthcare.

With Medicare tying reimbursement to patient satisfaction scores, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and pay for performance is having real consequences for hospitals,” the article noted.

Patients and their loved ones can now express their dissatisfaction to the world via a smart phone and the Internet. And, among the things they complain about is waiting time – the time it takes to be seen, get a bed, and get treatment.

At www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, Timely & Effective Care is front and center as an evaluation of the quality of hospital care and includes several categories ranging from surgical care, preventive care measures and heart attack care to pneumonia care, emergency department care and more. Questions relating to timely and effective emergency department carespecifically rate:

  1. “Average time patients spent in the emergency department before they were admitted to the hospital as an inpatient”
  2. “Average time patient spent in the emergency department, after the doctor decided to admit them as an inpatient, before leaving the emergency department for their inpatient room”
  3. “Average time patients spent in the emergency department before being sent home”
  4. “Average time patients spent in the emergency department before they were seen by a healthcare professional”
  5. “Percentage of patients who left the emergency department before being seen”

Hospitals risk significantly lower reimbursements if they don’t improve their patient care satisfaction scores, especially since Medicare will add more than 20 million new patients in the next few years.

Waiting time matters a great deal to patients when choosing a healthcare provider and will play an increasingly important role in hospital reimbursement in the very near term.

The level of both consumer transparency as well as hospitals’ and health systems’ new accountability for both the effectiveness as well as the efficiency of patient care is now a fact of life.

And while the authors note that core culture changes are important to managing patients in the throes of waiting, actual operational process improvement, to reduce waiting and earn greater patient satisfaction, can be achieved through the use of enterprise patient flow solutions.

The current reimbursement and regulatory environments for hospitals emphasize the importance of effective patient flow (Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program and The Joint Commission Revised Patient Flow Standard), and future requirements will further tie the amount of hospital reimbursement to efficiency of patient care delivery.

At TeleTracking, what started as the industry’s first bed tracking software is now an end-to-end system of patient logistics management that reduces or eliminates patient care wait times; decreases ED overcrowding, diversion and the number of patients who leave without being seen; improves your patient flow and provides the proactive and retrospective information stream that holds the key to constant operational improvement. Today, our solutions address:

  • Patient Placement
  • Bed Management/Turns
  • Transport
  • OR/Procedural Utilization
  • Transfer Center
  • Asset Management and Equipment Flow
  • Workforce Utilization
  • Work Order Management

What methods are you using to address both the patient care satisfaction culture shift and the root causes of excessive wait times in your facility?

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