Pick up any newspaper, turn on any TV or open any news web site and it is clear that healthcare accessibility and costs are top of mind concerns for American consumers. In the latest Politico poll, about 80% of respondents – in both parties – said lowering healthcare costs was “extremely” or “very” important.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good patient experience is not just as important. In fact, according to January’s study by The Beryl Institute,  90% of patients affirm that a good patient experience is either very important or extremely important to them.

Consumers expect hospitals and healthcare providers to deliver an exceptional, patient-centric experience. But how do patients define what good patient experience is? Here are three ways.

Good communication

For starters, patients want a care team that listens to them, and provides open, understandable communication. In an acute-care setting, that means that nurses’ workflows are streamlined to allow bedside communication based on the patient’s needs.

That was reinforced in a recent Australian hospital study. Those researchers found that, “Good communication and high-quality information at arrival and discharge were found to be important to patients.”

Surprisingly, only about 17% of hospitals incorporate digital tools to a great extent in their patient experience efforts. That’s according to the Beryl Institute’s 2019 State of Patient Engagement report.

Those that aren’t are missing a great opportunity to improve not only communication and streamline nurse workflows – but also to improve patient experience in many other areas that are important to patients.

With communication and education, for example, nurses who use Sentrics’ E3 digital interactive patient engagement solution for patient education teach back are achieving significantly higher nurse communication scores. With it, nurses are able to assign health education videos specific to the patient’s diagnosis. Then, when rounding, they can use their bedside time to reinforce the information and address any questions. Collectively, Sentrics’ customers have seen those ratings improve 5.41% from the outset of HCAHPS reporting in 2012 to 2018. Nationally, hospitals only improved by 2.56%.

Without ever leaving the patient bed, the patient can view test results and personal health information, read medication summaries, view education videos on their condition and care, and go through their discharge plan and checklist on the TV, bedside touch screen or tablet.

Putting all that information directly in their hands not only addresses the things that patients say are most important to creating a better experience, but it also frees up nurses, giving them more time at the bedside to answer questions and provide that personal communication that patients say is so important to them.

Respond to concerns

The Australian study also found that many patients complained about the hospital staff’s lack of response to their concerns and informal complaints. “This was particularly the case when complaints were about the environment. There was a lack of response to complaints about the environment, including rooms that were too warm, too cold or too noisy,” the study found.

A digital solution like Sentrics E3 solves that concern in at least two simple ways. One, it lets the patient be in control of his or her room environment – temperature, lighting, housekeeping, ambient noise control, meal orders and more – all at their fingertips, ensuring the patient room is clean, comfortable and quiet. No longer do those requests have to go to a nurse or other staff member to relay and respond.

Secondly, Sentrics’ daily check-in surveys and other customizable feedback options let the patient express feedback through the system, where it is immediately sent digitally to the correct manager for proper handling and response. Hospitals using this innovative solution have seen a 12% jump in HCAHPS and a 470% increase in patient feedback.

Improve discharge planning

Patients want to know what to expect when they leave the hospital, and be confident that they are well equipped for their own care. Poor discharge planning is a key factor in a patient’s assessment of his or her experience with the hospital.

“If communication was unclear and instructions were difficult to understand, especially if English was not the patient’s first language, patients were more likely to put a negative slant on their discharge experience,” noted the Australian researchers. “Conversely, if information was forthcoming and presented clearly, experiences were likely to be more positive.”

Here again, a digital interactive solution with multi-language options can make a huge difference in patients’ discharge readiness. Hospitals using the Sentrics E3 patient engagement solution far outpaced others on CMS discharge readiness score improvements over six years of HCAHPS reporting. Collectively, Sentrics hospitals have improved discharge readiness HCAHPS ratings by 3.57% during that time – far ahead of the national average of 2.35%.

And there’s more. Sentrics customers saw a 5.00% improvement in medication communication HCAHPS ratings, what the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says is a key component of discharge planning. That is nearly two full percentage points greater improvement than hospitals as a whole.