As a healthcare leader, there are hundreds of QI projects to choose from, but choosing an effective method to initiate change is sometimes easier said than done. One important medium we see as crucial to the success of any project is utilizing something 95 percent of Americans own (and carry almost all the time): a smartphone.
Whatever improvement project you have in mind for your healthcare organization – whether it be a system improvement, educational goal, or readmission rate improvement, a big part of your strategy should be assessing how technology can be a catalyst for this change.
Many internal systems you may have already implemented (or are implementing) like Epic, Cerner, or another EMR can provide a wealth of powerful data for your staff, but simple tools for real behavior change (like appointment reminders) are often a missing piece for hospitals. Patients want something that is convenient for them, but these types of tools are many times unavailable.
A survey from Verndale indicates that access to medical records are most wanted most by patients over 60, while access to appointments and notifications are most wanted by younger generations – something that can really only be effective in the form of an app.
With this in mind, here are a few different ways you can use mobile to help achieve your QI project goals:
Target patients directly in your service lines
If one of your objectives is to boost patient satisfaction scores within your OB/GYN service line (for example), having a specific solution tailored for the patient group you are tracking is key. One of the clients we worked with on a project like this was South Shore Health System. After identifying success metrics for a project, they quickly launched a branded pregnancy app with these outcomes in mind and have seen great results so far. To learn more, click here to check out the case study.
Below is an example of this type of solution, built from one of our healthcare app blueprints.
Depending on what you are trying to improve, apps are one of the most effective catalysts for seeing change, especially when trying to improve an outdated process in healthcare.
Identify a key area of improvement and start small
On misconception I still hear is that to provide justification for any sort of mobile project you must have as many features built into a single app as possible. The problem is that each patient group desires a slightly different patient experience, that one app design cannot achieve on it’s own.
A great strategy is to start small, and identify specific problems for patients within a service line that would be worth solving with an app.
For example, if you are looking to improve the waiting room experience at your Urgent Care centers, launching an app with a wait time function is a great first start. After starting small and taking an agile approach, it’s easier to iterate over time as patients begin using your solution.
Have a strategy for continual improvement
You can make progress towards QI goals unlike any other medium on mobile, by responding to patient feedback and continually improving an experience. A growing trend we have seen in many healthcare access apps released by our clients is the introduction of wait times.
Nearly all hospital apps didn’t have this ability several years ago, but was later added to apps as providers began making wait times more widely available on TVs in waiting rooms. The flexibility that mobile apps provide can be a perfect supplement to a larger QI project, where money is being spent in other ways in the form of paper manuals or brochures. Start with a QI model you are comfortable with before starting, like the Model for Improvement.
The Model for Improvement (MFI) model is the most common approach to QI projects according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and consists of three important questions:
- What are you looking to accomplish – determine what outcomes you are looking to change?
- How will you know a change is an improvement?
- What changes are you implementing?
Mobile as a change agent
Keeping in mind these three steps, mobile can often times be the change agent that acts as the catalyst for quality improvement projects. It really depends on several factors, including what demographic you are targeting.
Some hospitals we work with have seen HCAHPs scores increase by 68 percent after making apps available to expecting mothers, for example. Many new millennial patients expect a mobile-first experience outside of healthcare, but are disappointed when their healthcare provider does not offer the same type of solutions.
For this reason, it’s hard not to see mobile as a critical piece to QI projects in the future. Studies show consumers spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours on their smartphones each day, with the phone becoming the remote control of our lives.