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Putting the Patient First During a Pandemic

Posted By Lara Goorland, Friday, September 4, 2020

As the calendar approached the year 2000, people around the world planned for the worst; they took money out of the bank, stockpiled food, and prepared for chaos and the unknown. Twenty years later, we were not nearly as prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, but the disruption to society and traditional health delivery was magnitudes greater. 

PWNHealth (PWN) is a virtual care company and has been very active during this time, enabling access to testing and patient education while maintaining best in class patient care. In fact, we have played a significant role in nationwide efforts to facilitate testing, accounting for almost 5% of all U.S. testing to date with a myriad of partners across the country.

In order to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on health delivery, we conducted several exploratory studies, on the one hand exploring patient experience, and on the other, physician interactions and how they impact patient satisfaction.

To evaluate and improve the experience of patients, we sent a follow-up survey to more than 3,000 individuals who had ordered testing and completed a call with a physician after receiving their results. Every patient can speak to a physician throughout the process for additional information, education and direction on next steps in their care. The survey was designed to help us better understand a patient’s journey throughout the testing process and capture specific feedback on the telehealth session.

Results clearly demonstrate that patients appreciated being able to order testing, obtain education and speak to a physician from the comfort of their own home without having to risk exposure to COVID-19 themselves or put healthcare professionals at risk.

  • 77% of respondents reported this was their first time using a telehealth service.
  • 94% of respondents reported that they are equally or more comfortable with using a telehealth service as they are with an in-person visit.
  • 95% reported that they would use it again for a future healthcare need.

Patients who had never used a similar approach before to obtain care were very satisfied with their experience, underscoring this model as a viable alternative and providing further momentum toward care delivered out of the clinic.

On the physician side, we wanted to assess training, specifically around the patient experience. Traditionally, physicians have been evaluated on their bedside manner; however, there are some differences in a virtual setting, such as how to establish a relationship, optimizing effective communication and ensuring clinical best practices. We have developed and require that all our physicians complete a “Webside Manner” training as part of their onboarding process. This training went into high gear as we expanded our network by 48% to handle the increase in COVID testing volume.

After completing the training:

  • 96% of physicians indicated that the training helped them to establish relationships with patients
  • 100% of physicians reported that the training helped them communicate effectively with patients and provided useful information on policies and regulations.

Post training, we also saw an improvement in patient feedback across the board, including our Net Promoter Score. These increases can be attributed to equipping providers with the tools needed to operate effectively in a virtual environment. Additionally, in order to evaluate our physicians in a standardized way, we implemented scorecards to review their work and provide feedback in areas such as clinical compliance, responsiveness and communication with internal staff as well as on patient feedback.

Telehealth has been instrumental during this time and has become more readily accepted. COVID-19 has in many ways acted as a tipping point for telehealth utilization. Providing the fundamental tools for a physician to be successful in a virtual environment and monitoring and following up on patient feedback has never been more important. Our data reveal that we can have a great impact on both physicians and patients in this care delivery model.

 

Lara has been with PWNHealth since January 2017, and currently is the Senior Director of Clinical Operations. Over the past 13 years she has held a variety of positions in the healthcare field.  She has a passion for healthcare, improving access to care, and enhancing the patient and physician experience.

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