In this article, we discuss five ways you can enhance clinical and practice processes to deliver quality patient-centred care during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The healthcare community is continually looking for ways to improve patient-centred care. Countless research projects, journal articles, and institutional reviews have been dedicated to the subject - and with good reason. A focus on patient-centred care is proven to increase adherence to management protocols, reduce morbidity, and improve quality of life. All of this can lead to decreased hospital admissions and less stress on the medical system.
COVID-19 has presented new challenges to delivering patient-centred care. The rise of telehealth and social distancing guidelines has led us to interact with patients in different ways. During this time of high stress and constant change, it’s more important than ever to prioritise patient-centred care. This will ensure patients have the information they need to address their health concerns and the confidence to follow health mandates.
Here are five ways you can optimise patient-centred care while taking our new normal into account.
1. Focus on providing personalised care
Personalised healthcare is an important concept in medicine. It refers to tailoring medical treatment to each individual, taking into account biology, psychology, and socio-environmental factors. Personalised care approaches typically include engaging in multidisciplinary approaches to address long-term issues like diabetes and chronic pain.
Newer methods involve utilising technologies that help individualise approaches to disease prevention and management. These include forms of telehealth that allow easy access to patient information and real-time details like blood glucose levels. They can also be more complex, like forms of DNA testing that allow medical professionals to receive a fuller profile of a patient's biology.
In order to optimise personalised healthcare at your practice, take the time to note how you already provide this service and where innovation is needed.
2. Facilitate open communication
Open communication between patients and healthcare professionals is hugely important, and COVID-19 has made this communication even more important. Patients need to understand their diagnosis and treatment plan in order to take the steps necessary to manage their health. COVID-19 has made communication even more important.
Now, healthcare professionals must virtually obtain the right information to organise appropriate treatment plans. On top of this, simply coordinating remote healthcare can be confusing for those who are not tech-savvy. Practices need to ensure clear guidelines are provided in a range of accessible formats. For example, you may have an email, video and written pamphlet explaining how to engage in telehealth consultations, and ensure this material is available in different languages.
The best way to optimise communication in an increasingly remote world is to subscribe to an ethos of overcommunication. By over-communicating, you can ensure details are not lost in translation and encourage patients not to withhold important information. An example of over-communicating would be taking the time to explain to a patient exactly how a telehealth session runs and how they can access important follow-up documents like blood test requests and prescriptions. Digital modes of communication can significantly enhance this experience, with automated recalls, reminders and being able to access results online further increasing patient comfort levels and leading to a smoother process for both the patient and the practice.
3. Provide flexible access to care
Most practices across Australia are now engaging in telehealth consultations in an effort to curb transmission of COVID-19. However, this rapid digitisation is not expected to abate once the pandemic does. Digital innovations will transform the health space and we will see a rise in things like virtual hospitals and online practices.
Delivering patient-centred care means interacting with patients in a way they prefer, which will increasingly involve digital options. Given this, it’s important to establish a long-term flexible healthcare access plan for your practice, enabling you to optimise patient-centered care now and in the future.
4. Empower patients to manage their own conditions
A key element of patient-centred care is to empower patients to manage their own conditions. In order to do this, healthcare professionals must look at the whole patient and not just the disease being treated. A personalised approach to healthcare, over-communication and providing flexible access to healthcare can help do this.
Another tactic that has proven to help empower patients is goal-setting. This method is proven to help patients actively manage their own health. A patient-centred approach to goal setting involves using elements from a patient’s life to help inform treatment. For example, if a patient has diabetes and needs to more actively manage their condition, a healthcare provider may ask if they have any big events coming up like a wedding anniversary or birthday. This information can be used to drive goal setting.
5. Apply patient-centred design
COVID-19 has led to mandatory design changes in clinics to abide with social distancing guidelines. However, even with stricter parameters in place, there are ways to optimise the design of your physical practice to enhance the patient experience. Using less industrial design in hospital and practices can often improve patient satisfaction and healing, while also reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
It also has beneficial results regarding the spread of disease. A hospital in Canada decreased the rate of bacterial infection by 50% after redesigning their ICU. Making your space more comfortable can start with simple steps – you may wish to change the colour of your practice’s walls or swap a blaring television for relaxing music and calming images.
Thinking of patient-centred design does not need to be relegated to physical spaces either. Simply putting yourself in a patient’s shoes and thinking about their interaction with your services can help you improve the patient experience. For example, having to login to different sites to access appointment information, test results and telehealth services would be a more frustrating experience for a patient. However, providing all this essential information in one place would significantly improve patient experience in both physical and virtual environments, while improving efficiency and accuracy of delivery of care.
Discover how Clinic to Cloud's Patient Portal can help empower your patients with a more personalised, patient-centred experience.