Moving Past Predictions: 2024 and the Year of Collaboration

Bob Abrahamson, Vice President Marketing – Healthcare, pCare by Uniguest

Patient, Family, Nurse, and Doctor at Bedside

Making Predictions is fun. Dusting off the crystal ball to make some guesses as to what the next year/new year has in store is a creative way to apply the knowledge acquired by keeping up with market dynamics.  pCare by Uniguest SMEs Dave Bennett and Tim Vaughan weighed in on the future here and here. I appreciate and enjoy the effort Healthcare IT Today puts into aggregating input from a plethora of industry experts. Just check out this compendium of 2024 predictions. But now it’s time to get down to work.

It’s Not Either/Or

As hospitals continue the slow rebound toward profitability, controlling costs remains top of mind. Systems are vigilant with tracking labor which is the most expensive cost center. While over reliance on expensive locum tenens physicians and travelling nurses is decreasing, wages are still ticking up in an effort to combat turnover. This is a solid strategy for building a reliable and cohesive workforce. It is the frame of mind we need to consider when pushing forward on patient engagement and experience initiatives.

When budgets are tight, as they are now, investing in patient engagement initiatives in the form of newer patient-facing consumer technologies can seem like a nice-to-have. Yet we know when engaged patients take an active role in their health self-management better outcomes follow. This has been borne out with shorter lengths of stay and readmission reductions. The investment not only enhances patient experience but helps deliver cost savings improving the bottom line. And we haven’t even touched upon how a positive experience builds loyalty delivering a revenue bump.

The Year of Care Collaboration

Patient Engagement and Patient Experience as concepts are somewhat limited.

“What?!? How can you say that with all the buzz around patient centricity and consumerism?”

Hear me out. I’m not saying that patient engagement and patient experience are not important. What I am saying is that they don’t consider the full picture.

As I look at it, a “consumer” becomes a “patient” after interacting with a healthcare professional. This could be a doctor, nurse, NP, pharmacist, or other allied professional. Being a patient assumes some level of relationship. If I go online and self-diagnose an ailment  . . . I have a cold . . . I don’t consider myself a patient.  Just a sick guy. I go to my local CVS and get some Robitussin. If I call my doctor, do an online visit, or pop over to the Minute Clinic, then I’m the patient of that entity/organization. I have established a relationship.

For any relationship to be successful, the needs are all parties must be met. This is true for partnerships (as in a marriage) and transactional engagements (as with a service provider – fix my car and get paid.) But healthcare is complex. Sometimes it’s transactional (stitch the wound and pay at the desk), often it’s a partnership (chronic care management) and always it’s personal – for all parties. The patient has a need. The provider has expertise. But neither can benefit without some level of cooperation from each party. (If I don’t keep my wound clean, I could be readmitted to the determinant of the provider as well).

The key is collaboration. That is the lens which should be applied to patient engagement and patient experience. Can you really drive impactful patient engagement and a positive patient experience without considering the provider side of the equation. Look at the staffing challenges referenced above. Shouldn’t a Chief Care Collaboration Officer be spearheading the strategies to ensure great outcomes and experience for patients, families, AND staff. 

If I had my way, the Interactive Patient Care System (IPS) would be known as the Care Collaboration Platform (CCP).  In a nutshell, that is what it does:

• Educates the patient on conditions, what to expect during an admission, how to manage care post-discharge.

• Provides comfort and control for the patient via entertainment, room controls, service requests, etc.

• Facilitates information sharing with staff, patients, and families on an integrated digital whiteboard.

• Surfaces critical information upon room entry to focus and streamline care

• Offloads non-clinical tasks like updating a dry erase board or automating charting enhancing job satisfaction while reducing burn out.

Needs of the patient and family as well as the staff are addressed when properly implemented.

Care Collaboration puts the focus on improved experience for all stakeholders. This does not mean that the needs of the patient and staff are the same. At the end of the day, healthcare is about providing care and improving patient health. But patient-centricity should never be delivered at the EXPENSE of the care team. It can only truly be achieved in an environment where the entire care team is allowed to thrive. Care Collaboration ensures we don’t lose sight of that fact as we purse providing the absolute best care available.

So, as we start to deliver on our 2024 strategic plans – be it from the provider or vendor viewpoint – let’s work together under the umbrella of Care Collaboration to meet the evolving needs of everyone.

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