Putting Patients in the Driver’s Seat: The Role of Self-Service Within the Hospital

By Suzie Sfarra, Senior Vice President of Product, CipherHealth
LinkedIn: Suzanne Sfarra
LinkedIn: CipherHealth

The last time you went to a grocery store, did a cashier ring you up, or did you do it yourself? When you need to move money around, do you go to a bank teller or pull up your mobile app and do it on your phone?

And when’s the last time you booked a flight through a travel agency?

Self-service has become a hallmark of the consumer experience. Serving the twin goals of improving customer experience through convenience and reducing manual labor through automation, it’s been a central element of many digital transformations.

In the healthcare realm, we sometimes lag behind our counterparts in other industries when it comes to technology-enabled experience. Bound by stringent data and privacy safeguards and traditionally hampered by a walled-garden approach to interoperability on the part of the EHR giants, progress in creating cohesive, data-rich patient journeys has been traditionally slow.

Thankfully, that’s changed dramatically. Akin to trends in retail, hospitality, and technology sectors, healthcare is fast becoming consumer-driven. As patients transform into health consumers, their expectations for more control, personalized service, and convenience are becoming paramount. In response, healthcare institutions are seeking innovative ways to better meet these needs—and in many cases, it means putting patients in the driver’s seat.

Outside the walls of the hospital, self-service has become table stakes. Patients can schedule their own appointments, proactively ask for prescription renewals, and initiate asynchronous communication with their providers. When providers adopt robust engagement programs, that value builds—as patients are armed with information about their care, they feel more empowered to make decisions and are more connected with their care.

Inside the hospital, though, interactions are far more traditional. When a patient is sitting in a hospital bed, most interactions are initiated by a nurse or doctor. Aside from a call button, there’s little patients can do to control their own experience.

Rounding as an opportunity for self-service

In traditional patient rounding, nurses interact with patients at regular intervals, asking set questions and recording responses manually, often through electronic means. The process is critically important, aiming to ensure consistent monitoring of their experience and safety, but it’s a labor-intensive task that can often reduce the time available for nurses to attend to other pressing patient care aspects.

Rounding, however, presents one of the most viable entry points for inpatient self-service. By putting the power in patients’ hands to answer rounding surveys at their own discretion and at their own time, hospitals and health systems can realize profound benefits in patient experience, efficiency, data efficacy, and staff satisfaction. Most importantly, it leads to a profound shift in the healthcare journey, where patients are no longer passive recipients but active participants.

  • Reducing barriers to entry: Self-serve rounding is only effective if it’s actually utilized. By ensuring that self-serve rounding is easy to access—through SMS, QR codes in the room or prompts on the in-room television, for example—hospital leaders can ensure that there’s no data loss from nurse-led to self-serve rounding.
  • Leveraging data to its highest use: Self-serve rounding serves as a wealth of real-time, firsthand patient data. It provides hospital leaders with a more precise understanding of the patient experience. This unfiltered feedback can help identify patterns, highlight areas of excellence, and reveal aspects of the patient journey that require attention or improvement. Such insights drive decision-making, leading to quality improvements, efficient resource allocation, and a more patient-focused healthcare environment.
  • Optimizing staff time effectively: Self-service rounding can liberate nursing staff from the burden of traditional rounding as the only way of capturing insights from patients in the moment, allowing them to refocus their time and attention on more meaningful patient interactions. As they are freed from taking on an increasing volume of manual rounding, nurses can devote more time to providing personalized, quality care to the highest priority patients, improving patient-nurse relationships, and ultimately enhancing patient satisfaction.
  • Upleveling personalization: While a transition from in-person to self-serve rounding eliminates one potential face-to-face interaction between a patient and staff, the unfiltered voice of the patient data it produces empowers greater levels of personalization in other care encounters. By quickly integrating data from self-serve rounds, nurses can better tailor their care approach to better suit each patient’s needs and preferences.
  • Perform real-time service recovery: Self-service rounding can spur immediate action, instead of having to wait for stale satisfaction data to effect change. Many surveys used to measure quality and satisfaction are sent to patients after their healthcare experience is over, when it is too late to address the problem. Self-service rounding allows care teams to react in real-time to resolve issues.

The ascendancy of self-service in healthcare highlights the sector’s shift towards placing the patient at the center of their own care. By effectively adopting self-service patient rounding, healthcare institutions can take a critical step in transforming their patients from passive care recipients into active participants in their health journey.

In this transformative journey, the compass should always be oriented towards providing better, more personalized, and satisfying care experiences. By placing our patients in the driver’s seat and empowering them with control over their healthcare journeys, we can create a healthcare system that truly serves their needs and expectations.

The future of healthcare is one of patient empowerment, data-driven decisions, and personalized care. By increasing self-service opportunities within the hospital walls, we take an exciting step into that future, bolstering commitment to put patients first and ushering in a new era of consumer-centric healthcare. Through this innovative approach, hospital leaders are not just adapting to the consumerism trend; they are actively shaping the future of patient care.