Texting Program Helps Patients Give Hospital More Immediate Feedback

Recently, Neil Versel wrote about a truly horrible hospital experience his father had before his passing over on Meaningful Health IT News. It got me thinking, how many patients have terrible experiences like this, and, does the hospitals’ staff even realize it? Most hospitals give their patient’s a form to fill out toward the end of their stay to evaluate their care. A situation I was in a few months ago makes me wonder, however, how accurate those are in determining the care the patient actually received.

When my son was in the hospital during his second week of life with RSV, I was very disappointed with the care he received overall. Yes, there were a few good nurses, but for the most part, my husband and I felt several times like having our son there was an inconvenience to the hospital. One time, when I left for a few hours and my sister stayed with my son, a nurse tried to discharge us (despite the fact that my son was still on oxygen, and was being suctioned every few hours) without even consulting us. At one point, we were told they wanted more room for “more sick” patients, so they might send us home, even though our baby was still very ill. I voiced my concerns a few times but they were dismissed and I was basically told I didn’t have much of an opinion in my son’s care. However, when the time came to fill out the “confidential evaluation form” I was hovered over by the nurse as I filled it out and was given very little time to actually fill it out. What the nurse came away with was a form that would have probably insinuated that our stay was fine, seeing as I hastily finished it without much thought. I planned to complain later, but time got away from me, as it usually does with a newborn baby. I knew I wasn’t the only one to have a poor experience in the pediatrics/mother and child floor at the hospital, as everyone I spoke to who had delivered here said they had a terrible experience. However, the walls are full of notes from mothers staying how wonderful the hospital is. If nurses are hovering over patients as they fill out comment cards or are “encouraged” to fill out a thank you note, how accurate are the results? And even if the patient isn’t watched while filling it out, a piece of paper is very easy to misplace or be forgotten about.

So when I read this article about a texting program implemented at Park Nicollet Health Service in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, I was intrigued. The program, which is called CareWire, sends text messages to patients before and after their stay, sends appointment reminders, and asks questions about the patient’s stay in the hospital. The program was implemented to increase patient satisfaction. According to this article at MedCity, the part of the texting program that proves to be most useful is a “post-discharge” text that patients receive within a few hours after the patient leaves the hospital. The patient is asked to rate their experience on a 0 to 10 scale, and then Carewire “uses an algorithm to parse of the reason for any low scores, such as the type and time of the visit, which doctor the patient saw, and other relevant data. Customer Service reps then can follow up immediately on any low scores.”

Apparently, the hospital said that the program has helped to raise the satisfaction of patients and is being offered to other facilities in the area.

I love the idea of having a texting program like this. There is no risk of being rushed to fill out a form, or being eyed by an intimidating nurse as you teeter between putting a low score on one of the questions. Many hospitals have a company call patients a few weeks after their stay to answer questions, but this texting program allows for immediate, and more than likely, honest feedback. The fact that CareWire can determine facts such as the time of visit, which doctors (and hopefully, nurses) gave care, etc. during the patient’s stay make this program even better, as it can pinpoint where specific problems may be.

While it would seem that people should be able to voice their concerns and receive immediate reconciliation of the problem, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes it can be intimidating, especially when in the hospital, which is likely not the most uplifting situation to be in. At least, that is how I feel.

The article I first linked to talks about how other hospitals are implementing other ways to get immediate feedback, such as administering a survey through a tablet right before the patient leaves. While this is somewhat similar to filling out a piece of a paper, I feel like more people would actually fill it out because, unlike a piece of paper that can be thrown away or misplaced and never filled out, there isn’t really a  risk of that happening. The information would then be uploaded immediately to a computer, and hopefully one of the hospital’s employees could review it and help to reconcile any potential problems.

Having this immediate feedback is essential, in my opinion, for increasing patient satisfaction and helping to identify problem areas. This may increase some costs at the hospital, as Healthy Heartland, the vendor for MedCity, said it would potentially add $3 or $4 per visit to use the texting program. However, if patient’s are able to receive better care in the long run, I feel like this cost is well-worth the cost. I mean, if someone’s experience at a hospital is mediocre at best, they may not feel the need to complain or fill out a satisfaction form. However, if their response to a text indicated they could have received better care at a certain time, it might eliminate certain problems before they spiral out of control, and the horrible experience that Neil Versel’s father had could be prevented. Just something to think about.

What do you think? Do you think that this type of immediate feedback would increase patient satisfaction and, hopefully, the quality of care given at hospitals? Would you take the time to respond to a text?

About the author

Katie Clark

Katie Clark

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.