Texting program helps track, manage patient satisfaction

With Medicare payments soon to be tied in part to patient satisfaction scores, hospitals are testing myriad methods to keep patients happy.

One enterprising facility, Park Nicollet Health Service in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, uses text messaging to identify how patients feel about their hospital stay, and track down the source of any unpleasant experiences, according to a story published by MedCity News.

The texting program--CareWire, by vendor Healthy Heartland--communicates with patients before and after their stay, providing appointment reminders, procedure information and questions about their experience in the hospital.

The most useful segment of the program, MedCity reports, is a post-discharge text sent to patients a few hours after they leave the facility. The text asks the patient to rate his or her experience on a 0 to 10 scale. CareWire uses an algorithm to parse out the reason for any low scores, such as the type and time of the visit, which doctor the patient saw, and other relevant data. Customer service reps then can follow up immediately on any low scores.

Hospital officials tell MedCity the program has boosted patient satisfaction rates, although they don't say how much. Brett Long, the health system's vice president of strategy and growth did say that the program has been so popular, they expanded from an initial five-facility pilot project to using the service at all 19 of its primary care locations, with plans to later roll out to specialty clinics, etc., as well.

Healthy Heartland execs didn't give a dollar figure for the new program, but did pony up a glimpse of the costs hospitals might expect--about $3 to $4 per specialty or surgical visit, MedCity reports.

The big value is in getting patient opinions in real time, Long says. Previously, the hospital sent out surveys and had to wait weeks or months for responses. Response rates are higher with texting, and much more immediate.

It's not the only way to get faster (and more) response on patient surveys, though. Some hospitals, like Brockton Hospital in Massachusetts, have mobile-enabled their surveys for tablets, rather than texting, according to another MedCity News piece.

Brockton uses a commercial app, Survey on the Spot, that is loaded onto an iPad. Staff hand the tablet to patients just prior to discharge for completion. Hospital officials indicate it has improved response rates and satisfaction as well, according to a statement from the vendor, On the Spot Systems.

 To learn more:
- read the MedCity News article about Park Nicollet
- here's another MedCity piece on the Brockton Hospital program
- get some details from On the Spot's announcement