A better experience and better care go hand in hand

May 7, 2019
Kurt Forsthoefel
Kurt Forsthoefel

By improving exam room design and workflow data and equipment, medical practices can facilitate a better experience for both patients and caregivers.

The consumerization of healthcare and the rise of value-based payment models is putting greater focus on the experience at the point of care. 

Much of the focus has been on the patient since factors such as long wait times, accessibility challenges, or an uncomfortable exam room can negatively impact the patient’s experience and the quality of care given. A negative patient experience can cause anxiety, which can cause dramatic temporary increases in blood pressure readings. This is an important issue when needing to detect small differences in blood pressure, such as when treating patients with diabetes or renal diseases. A negative experience can spiral into larger issues, too, including frustrated patients, a resistance to follow treatment plans, or patients deciding to transfer care to another provider. 

The caregiver experience is now getting more attention. Healthcare organizations are realizing that caregiver experiences at the point of care can greatly impact a patient’s quality of care and clinical outcomes. The caregiver experience can also have a financial impact, in terms of patient satisfaction scores, consumer loyalty, staff turnover, liabilities, and safety issues. If a caregiver is overworked, exhausted or uncomfortable, the patient-caregiver interaction and quality of care provided may suffer. In today’s valued-based care model where patient satisfaction is crucial, lower satisfaction rates for both patients and caregivers can lead to lower payments and higher costs due to staff turnover. 

Physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion is common in the caregiver profession. Many caregivers routinely go home with back pain, aching neck, or sore muscles and joints caused by long hours working in uncomfortable positions. It’s no surprise that caregiver burnout is a growing problem. A 2018 survey conducted by Medscape revealed that nearly two-thirds of US doctors feel burned out and/or depressed, and those feelings affect how they interact with patients. 

The relationship and interactions between the patient and caregiver are built upon trust, engagement, and understanding. A less than ideal experience for either caregiver or patient at the ambulatory point of care can easily damage this relationship through a lack of trust in the relationship and perceived lack of quality care and, in turn, significantly impact the overall care experience.

There are a number of factors that can impact the point of care experience. Three of the most significant are:

  • Inefficient processes and workflows, which can increase wait times by causing caregivers to get behind schedule, as well as result in critical resources being underutilized or not available when needed. Patients may have unnecessary, longer wait times if equipment or technology is not available at the time of the exam. 

  • Safety issues, which includes everything from accessibility forpatients with mobility issues to the risk of possible infection from contaminates or tripping hazards in cluttered rooms; as well as injuries to caregivers when assisting patients with mobility issues.

  • Poor ergonomics, which can result in uncomfortable patients and caregivers experiencing back pain, aching necks and sore muscles or joints. 

Today’s healthcare organizations can take action to create better experiences for patients and caregivers. Two areas that offer some of the most direct solutions are workflow data and equipment and exam room design. 

Workflow data 

The capture and analysis of accurate workflow data can have a big impact on experience. Real-time locating system (RTLS) technology, which has been providing value in acute care for decades, has more recently helped healthcare organizations improve the experience in ambulatory care facilities. 

RTLS captures accurate workflow data, allowing communication of in-the-moment patient and staff locations, wait times, and interactions with patients and colleagues surrounding patient care, as well as a vast amount of retrospective detail for use in analyzing workflow to determine where improvements can be made. The information collected offers a more accurate understanding of the real-time status of workflows inside the facility. 

Analytics reveal insights into the duration of key activities, utilization trends, and bottlenecks that allow for targeted approaches to close gaps and drive new levels of overall patient flow efficiency. This efficiency can lead to a better overall experience for both the patient and caregiver by saving time and creating an easier experience from the moment the patient walks through the door. 

Equipment and exam room design

The right equipment and decisions for exam room design and layout can help create a safer, more comfortable and efficient environment for patients and caregivers. 

Fully adjustable exam chairs give caregivers unobstructed access to patients during exams, eliminating the need for overreach and awkward postures. Exam chairs with a seat height of 15.5" allow patients to transfer to the chair with little or no assistance from caregivers. This helps maintain the patient’s confidence and dignity while preventing caregiver injury from lifts or strain.

A correctly designed and configured exam room can further improve the experience. Roomslarge enough to comfortably accommodate patients and caregivers allow providers to perform exams and procedures properly and more efficiently while eliminating accessibility issues. Proper workstations allow caregivers to maintain face-to-face communication with patients in an ergonomically-sound comfortable position throughout the exam while utilizing laptops for data entry. An inviting, uncluttered environment, with equipment and supplies stored out of sight, helps patients feel comfortable and enhances workflows.

As healthcare professionals, you should expect a better experience for yourself and provide the same experience for your patients as you would want as a patient. That’s why Midmark has developed a point of care experience “Bill of Rights” for patients and caregivers that can be used to help guide you in making any experience-related actions or decisions. 

Kurt Forsthoefel is the director of medical marketing for Midmark.