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Finding Innovation in Challenging Times: How Allina Health Used Real-time Patient Feedback to Make Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Across the world, entire industries, many economies, and billions of lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s brought a chaos no one could have anticipated. But history has proved again and again that in times of chaos, imagination and innovation are often what lead us through. This especially rings true for healthcare systems that have carried much of the burden in fighting this insidious disease, and Allina Health is a prime example of remarkable resourcefulness in the face of this crisis.

 

When the pandemic hit the U.S. hard in mid-March, hospitals across the country had to pivot nearly immediately, reallocating what, in many cases, were already scarce resources toward combating COVID-19. Executives at Allina Health knew that if they were going to get through this pandemic while keeping their staff and patient populations safe, they needed strategic reinforcements. The organization turned to NRC Health’s Real-time feedback solution to better understand what its patients and physicians needed while things were drastically evolving every day.

Armed with rich, daily insights, Allina Health created a COVID-19 experience dashboard to allow it to actively monitor all service areas based on patient comments related to the coronavirus, enabling leaders to quickly sift out key themes and areas of concern. The dashboard shares this information alongside process measures for consumer-experience initiatives to highlight the impact these initiatives are having on health outcomes. With these learnings, frontline leaders have been meeting daily via COVID-19 incident command centers to better understand shifting priorities and implement new processes to reassure patients and staff while they seek and provide care throughout the pandemic.

 Introducing online screenings

As many healthcare organizations have done through the pandemic, Allina Health has introduced an online coronavirus-screening system, which leaders have continuously improved with feedback from daily patient surveys. In roughly one minute, the system screens for COVID-19 symptoms, according to guidelines from the CDC, then provides patients with an analysis regarding their likelihood of having COVID-19. Depending on their results, patients are then offered the ability to continue into a more advanced online screening process, in which a provider shares either an emailed diagnosis or connects them with further suggestions on care. With Real-time feedback, the organization was able to make quick updates to communications around testing, including additional, easy-to-access information for patients on what to do if they’re showing COVID-19 symptoms, scripting resources for providers giving a diagnosis outcome, and recommendations for next steps after a screening.

Adjusting care-delivery models

Allina Health has always prioritized safe and high-quality care delivery for all patients, whether through in-person or virtual visits. But given consumers’ increasing concerns over contracting the virus in healthcare environments during the pandemic, the organization’s executives realized they needed to introduce more virtual services. In a matter of weeks, Allina Health executed on patient feedback calling for it to grow its virtual offerings, increasing its delivery of telehealth visits from around 20 a day to over 2000 a day within 6 weeks prior to the pandemic. In expanding the organization’s telehealth capabilities so quickly, Allina Health’s leaders were able to stay responsive to the evolving needs of patients while minimizing risk for everyone.

 Rethinking communications strategies

Patients of Allina Health made it clear that they wanted more communication touchpoints to help ease their worries and confusion in the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. Leveraging that information, leaders were able to update and add new content to the organization’s websites and other patient and consumer communications. For example, seeing that patients valued Allina Health’s new offerings of separate respiratory and non-respiratory clinics and urgent-care locations, the organization’s leaders made sure those designations were clearly indicated on AllinaHealth.org.

Empowering healthcare staff with positive feedback

While consumers and patients have had a more positive view of healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline staff have borne the brunt of the crisis, working nonstop in hazardous conditions and putting their health and their families’ health at risk each and every day to serve patients. That’s why Allina Health has made it a priority to recognize the hard work and amazing care delivered by its staff during these incredibly difficult times by sharing positive comments at daily leadership huddles and through its COVID-19 incident command centers. Across the organization, teams have expressed sincere appreciation at being shown the positive impact they’re having on patients during this unprecedented time, giving them a much-needed morale boost and helping them identify ways to continue enhancing the patient experience.

Addressing patient fears

Despite patient trust and gratitude, there’s still a high level of anxiety among patients, due to the evolving nature of the pandemic. A majority (60%) of consumers still think they face an elevated risk when visiting their providers in person. As a result, Allina Health has taken significant steps to reassure its patients that they’re safe to receive the care they need, whenever they need it. Some of the steps leaders have taken to protect their patients include:

  • Increasing organizational capacity for virtual patient care, including visits with a provider and/or navigation to safe and appropriate in-person care settings.
  • Practicing social distancing in all lobbies and waiting rooms.
  • Requiring everyone to wear a mask. (Patients and visitors are provided with cloth masks, while patient-facing staff wear masks and face shields.)
  • Enhancing the already-rigorous cleaning practices of Allina Health’s dedicated Environmental Services staff.

NRC Health’s Real-time feedback has helped hospitals all over the U.S. uncover much-needed insight into what matters most to the patients seeking their care during these challenging times. While many elements of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to change quickly, Allina Health has leveraged invaluable patient-sentiment data and showcased innovative thinking to implement positive process change, keep up with the evolving experiences and perspectives of its patient populations, and ensure its leaders are delivering on their top priority: keeping their patients and employees safe.