Embracing AI and Real-Time Feedback to Improve Patient and Staff Experience

Justin Schrager
Justin SchragerMay 3rd, 20244 min read

As we wrap up Patient Experience Week, I wanted to share my thoughts about the promise of today’s patient experience technology to not only enhance patient outcomes and hospital reputation, but also to lift the spirits of hospital staff at a time when they need it most. This is inspired in part by a recent interview with a colleague, some excerpts of which are included below.

The digital component of patient experience (PX) is a constantly evolving sub-discipline, which plays an increasingly crucial role in shaping how patients feel about their care. When patients are given access to their medical information, a fast and easy way to reach their doctors and nurses, and a reasonable system of education and expectation setting, they feel included. In fact, research has shown that patients who feel included in their healthcare have better outcomes. And there is no reason that a contemporary patient should expect a different level of digital access when they are in the acute care setting than when they (for example) order a children’s book from an online retailer or take a plane flight from Atlanta to Indianapolis. 

If I’m being blunt, digital solutions for patient engagement in the healthcare space haven’t really evolved in the past 20 years. You still have the same old boring, difficult-to-use patient portal (that, by the way, your doctor dislikes as much as you do); your digital access platforms continue to be clunky in the acute care setting; and the proverbial target — which is set by service industries outside of healthcare — makes catching up that much harder for us in health tech. 

Happy Staff Means Happy Patients

Meanwhile, healthcare is in the midst of its worst crisis of burnout, moral injury, and disaffection among its workers that has ever occurred in the US, making investment in digital health solutions for patient experience and engagement that much harder to prioritize. 

I do not see these two problems as mutually exclusive. 

A fulfilled, respected, and valued healthcare worker will provide excellent care and communication to their patients, and an engaged, informed, and updated patient will have a better experience of care and provide their healthcare team members with the warm fuzzies that we all love to get when taking care of them. In other words, happy staff equals happy patients. 

Time to Think Differently

In my mind, these two challenges have placed evolutionary pressure on the way we think about using technology in the hospital. We can and should employ the same principles of innovation that have been demonstrably successful in other industries. 

It is time that we, in the healthcare world, demand modernity in our health-tech. We deserve consumer grade engagement platforms for our patients that allow for real-time bidirectional communication with care teams, patients and their families. It is within our power to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs) in a safe, and reasonable way in our everyday practice of medicine. Our patients deserve to be kept informed and educated and it is completely within the reach of technology to enable this right without an additional burden on an exasperated clinical workforce. 

EHRs: High Hopes, Limited Impact

Historically, the healthcare industry has turned to technology to alleviate these burdens. EHRs promised to streamline administrative tasks and enhance patient care. Yet, despite widespread adoption, EHRs have not fully delivered on their promise to reduce workload for healthcare providers. Instead, they often add complexity and inadvertently increase the demands on an already overstretched staff.

Today, we stand on the brink of a new era: AI-enabled patient experience solutions promising much more than their predecessors. AI and machine learning can significantly reduce administrative burden, enhance patient care, and improve clinical decisions. In practice, AI can optimize bed management, predict patient flows, and identify at-risk patients earlier by analyzing patterns that would be impossible for humans to detect in real time.

Overcoming Slow Adoption in Healthcare

Despite the clear benefits, the adoption of such technologies has been markedly slower compared to other industries. This hesitance can be costly, as both patients and healthcare professionals now expect the kind of digital convenience and efficiency they experience in other aspects of their lives. Younger healthcare workers and patients raised in a digital world are not just requesting, but demanding that healthcare keep pace with other sectors.

At Vital, we recognize and champion the need for swift adaptation and innovation in healthcare technology. Our patient experience platforms — ERAdvisor and CareAdvisor — are at the forefront of this, particularly with the former’s ability to facilitate real-time patient feedback. This tool exemplifies how immediate insights can enhance patient satisfaction and empower healthcare staff. By asking patients simple, real-time questions about their care, and delivering their feedback directly to caregivers, we enable a dynamic that transforms the traditional patient-care provider relationship.

The Power of Real-Time Feedback

The impact of real-time communication is profound, particularly in high-pressure environments like ERs. Here, staff often endure high stress with little immediate recognition of their hard work. Our feedback system allows ER staff to receive immediate patient responses—most of which are positive. This not only boosts morale but also mitigates feelings of burnout by validating the hard work and dedication of our healthcare providers.

Moreover, the positive feedback loop created by real-time interactions encourages a culture of excellence and continuous improvement in patient care. Staff feel more appreciated, and patients feel more cared for—a virtuous cycle that enhances every aspect of the healthcare experience.

Celebrating Innovation: Our Partners in Change

Vital’s clients are not just adapting to change; they are leading it. These hospitals are redefining what it means to deliver exceptional care in a digital age. They are the pioneers showing that when technology and compassionate care intersect, the results are transformative.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this mash-up video of me and my colleagues reflecting on what it’s like to work with such innovative partners. 

The Path Forward 

As technology and the PX discipline continue to advance, the urgency for hospitals to innovate cannot be overstated. With AI and real-time feedback mechanisms, we have the tools to dramatically improve the way healthcare is delivered. It is imperative that we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in patient experience, ensuring that healthcare not only meets but exceeds the expectations of the next generation of patients and healthcare providers.

While the journey of patient experience is fraught with challenges, the path forward is clear. Through innovative AI solutions and embracing real-time feedback, we can transform patient care, reduce caregiver burnout, and ensure our healthcare systems are as resilient, efficient, and compassionate as those who dedicate their lives to running them.

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