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Creating better patient experiences using tablets: Here's how

Posted: 09 Jan 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:tablet? patient experience?

While anyone's stay in the hospital can ever hardly be seen as a "good" experience, there really is far more that hospitals can do with technology to foster a more patient-friendly environment. Recent deployments of tablets in hospitals are improving the patient experience in many ways.

"I really enjoyed my week at the hospital," said no one ever. Hospital stays are not anyone's idea of a good time. It is possible to make the experience less unpleasant, though, with the help of technology. Hospitals are making progress in that direction by providing patients with bedside tablet computers that provide information and communication options. However, there really is far more that hospitals can do with technology that integrates systems to improve efficiency and create a more patient-friendly environment.

Using tablets for updates and information

Having spent too many days in a hospital recently, I realise that not all hospital caregivers are consistent about updating the whiteboard with the names of those assigned to a patient, and some fail to introduce themselves to all their patients when they come on shift. The value of patients knowing who is on their team by name and face was pointed out in a study undertaken by the New York-Presbyterian (NYP) Hospital titled A Tablet Computer Application for Patients to Participate in Their Hospital Care. That's why the apps on the tablets at NYP, as well as the Android app MyChart Bedside used by St. Rita's Medical Centre, show patients and/or their family members who's on their team.

Sending alerts without making noise

One of the most unpleasant aspects about hospitals is the constant noise, most of it from beeps and alarms. Bedside tablets can cut down on the beeps caused by patients calling nurses by offering direct messages with calls or texts. These direct messages deliver information more precisely and directly without the back-and-forth entailed in calling for a nurse, having someone come in to ask what is required, and then finally getting it.

Limited communication

In response to my questions about the tablets deployed at St. Rita's, Michelle Burtchin, the nurse and clinical manager who headed the pilot program for their use, explained that they make it possible for the patients to "alert the staff for simple, non-emergent requests" like a request for ice chips. That request will then appear on the computer screen at the nurse's desk without the need for any noises to alert them to a request. That's good, but it's not quite as effective as being able to reach a nurse on the floor on her own device, which is something that New York Presbyterian has set up for its tablets.

Efficient routing

NYP's corporate director of information services in IT, Helen Kotchoubey, reported that the communication tools built into the tablet include "call your nurse" or "message your nurse" options. There are also a number of canned text messages patients can use to expedite simple requests, such as asking for another blanket. Such messages go straight to the nurses' cell phones. Kotchoubey stated that the nurses insisted they wanted to be the first contact for patients. Only if the nurses are busy would the call or text be routed to the desk at the nurses' station.

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