How mobile apps can help hospitals increase patient satisfaction

Boston-area South Shore Health System raised HCAHPS scores for its OB/GYN department with the help of a mobile app providing consistent information to expectant patients.
By Kat Jercich
09:48 AM

South Shore Health System prides itself on its maternity platform, said vice president of operational excellence Luke D. Poppish during a recent HIMSS20 Digital presentation.

So when faced with middling Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems ratings in 2016, "We were a bit lost," said Poppish during his talk, Mobile App Drives HCAHPS Growth Through Patient Care Mapping.

The South Shore Health System team realized there was a messaging gap, Poppish explained, between hospitals, obstetrics offices, and the patients themselves. 

"It was very unclear to our patients what exactly the real story was," he said. "They were kind of caught in the middle of this circular communication problem," he said. "That was really our reason for action."

"It's like a game of 'telephone,'" he continued, with patients receiving conflicting or inconsistent information from different providers. "Each time they pass the message on ... it gets changed a little bit."

The health system's solution, Popish said, was a streamlined mobile resource for expectant patients to access information on available services, the labor experience, maternal fetal medicine, and postpartum experiences.

"You're always going to have that consistent message available to them at any time," he said.

After the implementation of the app, South Shore's HCAHPS rating score increased 38%.

Although Popish is careful to note that the system made other changes, such as educating nurses on patient communication and setting office expectations, "We do feel like the app had something to do with these improvements." 

Popish advised other health systems who want to enact similar plans to identify target audiences and design a solution that meets their needs. He also noted that, although most of the patients readily embraced the technology, some of the providers were slower to adapt to the app's use.

"You really do want to have an internal champion," he advised. They don't need to be an expert developer, but they can help advocate for keeping the app dynamic and updated. Other stakeholders, including nurses, midwives, OB-GYNs, and office staff, also contributed feedback.

After the success of the app for expectant mothers, Popish explained, South Shore developed one in response to a new bariatric surgery program to create visibility and awareness of the program and to help patients prepare for the procedure.

Popish stressed the importance of key performance indicators to demonstrate impact. Patient usage reports showed that some users spent as much as 10 to 15 minutes on each app, suggesting high levels of engagement.

Ultimately, Popish advised not making an app "just to have one."

"It's better that you find a problem where the app may be a solution for you," he said.

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Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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