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Real-time feedback: Always useful, and essential in a crisis

The impact of COVID-19 has been both tragic and profound. An unprecedented turning point in American history, the coronavirus pandemic is also likely to fundamentally change healthcare delivery in this country.

Unlikely to change, however, is the importance healthcare organizations place in hearing the voice of their consumer. Indeed, moments of crisis call for health systems to cultivate even closer relationships with their customers, and rebuild the bonds of trust that are being so strenuously tested. To that end, capturing patient feedback immediately after the care encounter can be of enormous value.

Here are four ways Real-time feedback serves both providers and patients—especially in the middle of a crisis.

Assessing new and temporary measures

Turbulent times can fuel unprecedented innovation. For evidence of this, witness health systems’ responses to the coronavirus. From rapidly erecting drive-through testing clinics to converting convention halls into emergency-overflow centers, the ingenuity shown by healthcare organizations has been inspiring.

Crises, however, tend to evolve in unpredictable ways, putting new stressors on health systems as they strive to stay ahead of the curve. Organizations must therefore find a way to make rapid, iterative changes to their service—and assess the effectiveness of those changes as they’re deployed.

Real-time feedback from patients, delivered within hours of a care encounter, can give leaders an instantaneous read on the performance of their short-term tactics. This way, they can know which ideas are worth preserving, and which might need to change in the next cycle of innovation.

Preparing for future threats

An essential component of a crisis is the element of surprise. In the case of COVID-19, what started as a distant news item quickly became an urgent and ubiquitous threat, and many institutions struggled to find a response. No organization—in healthcare or otherwise—is looking to repeat that experience.

In forming a defense plan to meet coming threats, customer feedback can be an important asset. It can reveal where and when health systems struggle to meet the demands of their customers, enabling leaders to adjust their approach.

Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, for instance, used NRC Health’s Real-time patient-feedback solution to uncover inefficiencies in its ED throughput. They used what they learned to streamline processes and cut wait-times nearly in half.

Efficiencies like this are valuable under normal circumstances. They can be immeasurably more so in a crisis. And they may be undetectable without a system that can capture feedback in real time from customers.

Efficiencies like this are valuable under normal circumstances. They can be immeasurably more so in a crisis. And they may be undetectable without a system that can capture feedback in real time from customers.

With Real-time Feedback, Houston Willowbrook Hospital cut ED wait-times nearly in half

Improving morale

Right now, frontline providers are facing the most exhausting—and dangerous—conditions of their careers. The least we can do is show them our appreciation. Through open-ended comments collected via Real-time feedback, leaders have an expedient tool to do exactly that.

In their comments, customers frequently express gratitude for their providers. They liberally use words like “hero” and “angel,” and they tell personal stories of how staff members have affected their lives for the better.

As providers at LCMC Health will attest, these stories resonate with frontline staff. LCMC leadership recently embarked upon a campaign to publish positive comments in public areas around the hospital. The campaign has had a marked effect on staff engagement and morale.

These comments elicit powerful responses because they touch on the reason many providers entered healthcare in the first place: they wanted to serve. Relating these comments to healthcare workers is an easy way to honor that purpose and give them a much-needed morale boost during a terribly stressful time.

Assessing understanding

The course of any public-health emergency will depend, in large part, on how well health systems communicate with their patients.

Local provider organizations are, and are likely to remain, consumers’ most-trusted resource for information about pandemic emergencies.

This is a remarkable privilege, and one that health systems can marshal to help bring a crisis to heel—provided that they wield the privilege correctly.

By examining comments from customers, providers gain a window into patients’ thoughts after their encounter, and are able to assess whether a given patient has left their organization with a strong understanding of the risks. From there, they can adjust their communication strategy to reinforce the messaging that will keep the whole community safe.

58% of consumers would like to receive daily information from their providers about public-health crises.

The Real-time effect

Many of NRC Health’s partners will attest to the transformative effect of Real-time on their operations. In normal times, it can refine clinical operations, spur positive cultural change, and even bolster patient volumes.

For now, though, Real-time’s major utility may lie in the perspective it lends. By shedding light on the immediate experience of customers, Real-time can be a critical source of data that will help leaders make informed and strategic decisions—a vital capability in a time of crisis.