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3 Strategies to Innovatively Advance Emergency Care Delivery

By Jacqueline DiChiara

- The simple concept of value is a missing piece of the emergency department (ED) care spectrum puzzle, according to key findings released within Press Ganey’s white paper survey of over 1 million patients. Through the execution of numerous strategies, overall organizational performance can indeed be strengthened, says Press Ganey.

emergency department value-based care strategies patient satisfaction

Numerous factors sway patients’ views of ED care, says the white paper, which defines a series of strategies “to help healthcare organizations leverage the emergency department to improve performance, grow market share, and align with value-based principles” via proprietary research and analyses. Research states challenges stemming from ED-related issues present rather unique challenges and opportunities that in turn can affect the entire patient experience.

Emergency departments serve as “critical inflection points” regarding patient experience outcomes, says Press Ganey. Efforts to bolster improvement and execute a thriving market share are especially imperative as the healthcare industry continues to transition towards a value-based payment movement. By placing more focus upon the liminal, transitionary elements of inpatient and outpatient care, clear-cut challenges begin to emerge, resultantly paving the way for opportunity advancement, says Press Ganey.

“Emergency care in the U.S. continues to be a critical opportunity for health care organizations to optimize value and reduce suffering throughout the entire patient experience,” says Thomas H. Lee, MD, Press Ganey’s Chief Medical Officer. “The analyses in this paper shed light on challenges facing ED leaders and physicians and provide actionable insights on the patient experience to help drive improvement. A deep understanding of patients’ needs along with teamwork and engagement [is] essential to providing safe, efficient, and high quality emergency care,” he adds.

Key findings from the white paper discuss the relationship between care delivery variables and patient loyalty measures, the connection between wait times and recommendation possibility, how pain medication impacts patient experience scores, the defined link between emergency department throughput and hospital perceptions, and how caregiver suffering impacts overall organizational performance levels.

READ MORE: How Emergency Providers Can Adopt Alternative Payment Models

Three top proposed strategies to optimize emergency care delivery are as follows: utilize vigorous measurement and advanced analytics to better comprehend and improve those outcomes most valued by patients; execute the complete commitment to leadership and care teams in improvement initiatives; conduct best-practice interventions to effectively meet patients’ needs, reduce suffering, streamline operational processes, and care for emergency department caregivers.

Develop patient-centered, data-driven processes

Patients who do not feel adequately cared for are more negatively influenced by such varying factors such as wait time or pain control, says Press Ganey. Nonetheless, there are many aspects of care that influence a patient’s perspective, as such is generally a quite personal, variable matter depending upon numerous factors and individualistic or collective patient reactions to such.

White paper data confirms the longer patients wait in the emergency department, the less likely they are to recommend a facility. Providing patients with information regarding delays, such as explaining the cause of a delay and how long a patient can expect to wait is confirmed as being “far more critical than the actual length of wait.” Says Press Ganey, patients simply desire more information. Helping patients better understand wait time results in a more positive patient experience by reducing anxiety and fear levels.

“The degree to which patients feel providers have done everything they can to care for them, to keep them informed about their care plan and to communicate the reason for delays exert more influence on patients’ overall perception of care and also appear to mitigate the impact of long wait times and throughput delays,” says Press Ganey.

READ MORE: Preparing Providers for the Healthcare Consumerism Shift

Consider how drug-seeking behavior drives patient experience scores

As prescription drug abuse and misuse gains widespread prevalence across the healthcare industry, emergency physicians are focusing more energy on providing the most suitable clinical care according to patients’ needs, says Press Ganey. The extent to which physicians and nurses “did everything they could to assist with pain” fundamentally impacts patients’ care ratings, Press Ganey maintains. A direct connection was noted between emergency department caregivers exhibiting verbal or non-verbal empathy for patients’ pain and patient experience scores.

Reduce caregiver suffering, engage staff in improvement efforts

“Patient flow is not linear, and varies considerably by patient volume and acuity, laboratory and imaging needs, staffing, and inter- and intradepartmental collaboration,” says Press Ganey.

Data allegedly demonstrates the deepest correlations exist between emergency department patient evaluations and process measures related to discharged patients, such as the average time from arrival to departure. The leveraging of modern practices can advantageously restructure operational processes, cut variation levels, and advance overall throughput, Press Ganey maintains.

READ MORE: AHA Calls for Value-Based Reimbursement Reform Under Trump

“Patients admitted through the ED often have less favorable evaluations of their hospital stay, and though these patients have unique characteristics that may make meeting their needs more challenging, these correlates indicate that that there is likely a direct influence of the ED care process on their perceptions of the hospital,” says Press Ganey.

Concluding thoughts: focus on evidence-based innovations

“High-functioning EDs provide a necessary service to the community and they are a value-driven resource for the health care systems they support,” Press Ganey concludes. “The ability to deliver timely access to safe, effective, quality emergency care leads to benefits that extend far beyond the ED walls.” A leading priority must be evidence-based innovations that advance the value of emergency care, additionally confirms the white paper.

“Health system and ED leadership must work together to develop patient-centered, data-driven processes to improve performance on outcomes that matter to patients and to reduce variation in processes and procedures that impede operational efficiency,” Press Ganey concludes. “They must also educate clinicians and staff about the importance of meeting patients’ needs for communication, information and empathy, and engage them wholeheartedly in the mission to do so.”

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