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Improving the Patient Experience by Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Sep 5, 2018 10:44:38 AM

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Addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH) is increasingly important to hospitals and healthcare systems. In fact, medical care determines only 20 percent of overall health -- while social, economic, and environmental factors determine 50 percent of overall health. Extending ways to help patients stay healthy outside the hospital can help patients, communities, and hospitals. SDOH include all factors outside of the hospital that affects patients, such as:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Education
  • Physical environment
  • Employment
  • Social support networks
  • Access to healthcare

Understanding a patient's socioeconomic status may include issues like nutrition. Are your patients able to safely shop for food? Are they able to prepare healthy meals on their own? 

A positive hospital-patient relationship can instill trust and loyalty, which results in higher HCAHPS scores. A hospital’s reputation in the community may influence consumers, who have choices in their healthcare. An estimated 67 percent of patients select where they want to go for medical care. 

Shifting Priorities

 “The patient experience in healthcare is ultimately the human experience," states Jason Wolf, PhD., president of the Beryl Institute. Research from the Beryl Institute shows: 

  • Patient experience remains a top priority around the world and throughout the continuum of care. 
  • Organizations are investing in providing a superior experience for patients.  Currently, 42 percent of healthcare institutions have a chief experience officer role. In 2013, that number was only 22 percent, and the trend is growing. 

In 2013, one of the primary goals of hospitals was to reduce noise. The focus has shifted now to making the following top priorities:

  • Service
  • Communication
  • Patient voice
  • Compassion
Hospital employee engagement programs are growing. Engaged employees are a key factor in driving a positive patient experience.  All interacttions with a patient matter. 

Care Transitions

Your transitional care plan can add to the positive experience for your discharged patients. The HCAHPS survey includes questions relating to care transitions:

During my hospital stay, staff took my preferences and those of my family or caregiver into account in deciding what my health care needs would be when I left.

Some things to consider before your patients return home: 

Will your patients have access to nutritious meals at their home? Weight loss and poor nutritional intake can delay the healing and recovery process. This could result in longer, more challenging recoveries, and in many cases, relapse and readmission.

Do patients have family members to assist with grocery shopping and preparing hot meals? Preparing meals can be difficult for those recovering from hospitalization, surgery, or illness.

When I left the hospital, I had a good understanding of the things I was responsible for in managing my health.

Patients will have a more positive experience of their stay if they feel the hospital still cares about them after discharge.

Are they aware of any dietary restrictions they may have?

Does their health plan include a post-discharge home-delivered meal benefit? If it doesn't, many hospitals are now providing meals post hospital discharge. This benefit is another way to boost the patient experience. Post-hospitalization programs that include the management of nutritional status and depression may reduce hospital readmissions. 

Nutrition care is a key component to improving patient outcomes. Malnutrition is one of the most significant contributors to hospitalizations and readmissions. 

Home-delivered meals can help extend a positive experience beyond your facility. Patients who receive home-delivered meals after hospitalization regain their strength and energy faster. Well-nourished post-discharge patients are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

Providing post-discharge meals can help ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home. 

Download White Paper: Transitional Care:  Is Your Model Missing a Key Component? 

Topics: Post Discharge, Senior Health, Healthcare Cost Reduction, Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Home Delivered Meals

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