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Four easy ways to provide patient education

The responsibility of educating patients and their families often falls to nurses, from explaining procedures to providing discharge instructions. This can be one of the most difficult parts of the job, and your staff may have limited time due to staffing issues or an emergency situation. Here are some tips to help educate patients quickly and effectively:

Handouts are your friend: Patients are often given a lot of information all at once, and it can be hard for them to remember every detail, especially in a stressful hospital setting. Having notes and props ready for them can save time and prevent miscommunication, especially when discharging patients. Have your nurses write up the specific instructions and go over them with the patient; use highlighters to mark the most important information. There are a lot of resources and tools available (we have some here) about common procedures and practices that you can use as handouts for patients as well.

Stay concise but informative: Patients are probably only going to remember one or two learning points, so try to emphasize the most important takeaways and leave the rest for your handouts.

Test understanding: It’s important not to assume that your patient is well-informed about their own condition. Even if you think something is obvious, say it anyway! Once you go over the key points, make the patient repeat them back to you; it’s one thing to listen to an explanation, but quite another to have to explain it yourself.

Encourage questions: Even if a patient seems to understand, it’s important to leave time for questions. Ask if they have any concerns about medications or follow-up care; this will help prevent confusion going forward and negative health outcomes.

You can go here for more advice about patient education.

Virtual reality a potential solution for pain management

This year has seen the release of multiple virtual reality (VR) headsets aimed at the home consumer. As they are becoming more affordable, hospitals and companies are researching the benefits in a healthcare environment, and the early results are positive.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are conducting studies using the software, and the early results are positive. Cedars-Sinai researchers found that 20 minutes of using the VR software reduced patients’ pain by almost 25 percent; patients had an average pain score of 5.5 out of 10 before the VR experience and an average score of 4 after using the software. The researchers say this is a dramatic reduction, and not far from the effect of narcotics. At Stanford Children’s Health, they speculate that VR can be valuable for helping children get through tedious or uncomfortable procedures, such as physical therapy or imaging studies.

Though providers are cautiously optimistic about the possibilities, there are still some hurdles to overcome. It is difficult to find developers who want to target medical issues, because of the unclear path to profitability. One startup company, ApplieVR, is building a library of content designed to help patients “before, during, and after medical procedures” It’s also important to determine when the technology can helpful and when it can’t; some patients won’t respond to the applications as well as others, and researchers are careful not to oversell the value of VR at this early stage.

For more information, check out the MIT Technology Review article.

Do you think VR might replace Opoid use eventually? Let me know in the comments!

How nurses can reduce patient anxiety

Nurses face challenging patients and their families every day, but understanding the causes of patient stress can reduce the patient’s anxiety and ultimately make your job easier.

Healthcare can be confusing and distressing for many patients. Being admitted to a hospital for any reason can be one of the more stressful events in a person’s life. Because of this, it is important to remember that anxiety is the root cause for many conflicts in healthcare settings; so a difficult patient or family member isn’t necessarily a rude or ornery person most of the time, they may just be experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

The first step in mitigating a patient’s anxiety is to introduce yourself and explain your role in their treatment plan. Explain everything you are going to do and why you are doing it. Patients are inexperienced in healthcare procedures, and it can be easy to take your knowledge for granted. Come armed with hand-outs and as much information as you can; the more knowledgeable the patient feels, they more comfortable they will be.

Next, it is important to listen to your patient and take their needs seriously. Active listening techniques, such as asking open-ended questions, taking an interest in their lives, or checking in on their feelings, can be a vital lifeline to someone suffering from anxiety. Check in with them often, and give them a venue to voice their concerns.

Instead of instructing the patient to relax, demonstrate it! Your demeanor can have a profound effect on a patient’s emotional well-being, so staying cool and collected can relax them in turn. Consider using relaxation techniques like breathing exercises to help them cope with anxiety.

For more tips, click here.

House calls can benefit patients and cut costs

Two of the lasting images of early healthcare professionals is the doctor with their big bag making house calls and a midwife rushing to a family home to facilitate a birth. As healthcare has advanced, we’ve moved away from this home-based model toward the consolidated approach of the modern hospital. However, some practices have returned to house calls, with some positive results.

Independence at Home, a program created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), seeks to identify patients that would benefit from homecare or cannot be helped in a hospital setting. The project sends mobile interdisciplinary healthcare teams, lead by physicians and nurse practitioner, out to the homes of these patients and provide care.

According to a recent Medscape article, the program reports a few different benefits. The patients receive more attention and care from providers, and the setting can foster trust between patient and provider. Hospitals and nursing homes can be difficult places for many patients, and they would prefer to get treatment in their homes. Terminal patients particularly benefit from this; as one provider notes, hospitals are not where people want to die.

The providers benefit from the more personalized patient relationship as well, but there are also financial incentives for homecare. CMS reports that they saved $25 million by using this system and $11.7 million of that went back to the providers. Because the system targets some of the most expensive Medicare patients, hospitals can save a lot by providing in-home care in this system. In addition to the CMS program, Veterans Affairs Medical Centers report that providing home care for some of their patients cost 12% less than standard care.

Game teaches nurses about med management

A new board game might help nurses minimize medication errors.

Many nurses report that medicine management is a difficult aspect of their responsibilities. Focus Games Ltd and healthcare academics have developed an educational board game designed to help “frontline healthcare professionals understand, recognize and minimize medication errors.” The Drug Round Game, an adaptation of “Snakes and Ladders,” hopes to teach nurses and nursing students about medication management, while giving them the opportunity to practice drug calculations and have big picture discussions in a low-stakes environment.

Nursing students that have tried the game describe it as fun and engaging, while improving their nursing knowledge and practicing what they’ve learned. Professors who’ve played the game with staff and students say that the game is enjoyable yet challenging, and an effective way to practice and refine their skills.

For more information about the game, check out City University of London’s press release.

National Time Out Day

Today is National Time Out day! For the 12th year in a row, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) want to remind medical professionals to take a moment before every procedure to make sure they are “operating on the right patient, the right site and the right procedure.” The Joint Commission reports that wrong site surgeries occur five times every day in the United States, and AORN hopes to raise awareness of the issue and improve patient safety.

For more information or to see how you can participate in National Time Out Day, visit AORN’s official website.

CMS adopts 2012 Life Safety Code®

Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the OSHA Healthcare Advisor.

In a highly-anticipated move expected to significantly affect the regulatory rules that hospitals and other healthcare facilities are held to, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has officially adopted the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code® (LSC).

CMS has confirmed that the final rule adopts updated provisions of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2012 edition of the LSC as well as provisions of the NFPA’s 2012 edition of the Health Care Facilities Code.

Healthcare providers affected by this rule must comply with all regulations by July 4—60 days from the publication date of the rule in the Federal Register.

The adoption of the rule has long been anticipated, as the LSC, which governs fire safety regulations in U.S. hospitals, is updated every three years, and CMS has not formally adopted a new update since 2003, when it adopted the 2000 edition. As a result, CMS surveyors have been holding healthcare facilities to different standards to other regulatory agencies that have gradually adopted provisions of the new LSC in their survey requirements.

Some of the main changes required under the final rule include:

  • Healthcare facilities located in buildings that are taller than 75 feet are required to install automatic sprinkler systems within 12 years. after the rule’s effective date.
  • Healthcare facilities are required to have a fire watch or building evacuation if their sprinkler systems is out of service for more than 10 hours.
  • The provisions offer long-term care facilities greater flexibility in what they can place in corridors. Currently, they cannot include benches or other seating areas because of fire code requirements limiting potential barriers to firefighters. Moving forward, LTC facilities will be able to include more home-like items such as fixed seating in the corridor for resting and certain decorations in patient rooms.
  • Fireplaces will be permitted in smoke compartments without a one-hour fire wall rating, which makes a facility more home-like for residents.
  • For ASCs, alcohol-based hand rub dispensers now may be placed in corridors to allow for easier access.

Visit https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-10043.pdf to read the full final rule.

View the CMS press release here: https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2016-Press-releases-items/2016-05-03.html

Shared decision making has benefits for minority patients

New evidence suggests that shared decision making (SDM) can improve the patient experience for minority groups, particularly LGBTQ patients of color.

Shared decision making aims to include the patient’s perspective when making care decisions and better educate patients about treatment options. SDM acknowledges that each patient is unique, so creating a dialogue between the provider and patient should increase patient engagement and result in better outcomes. As one researcher describes the shift: “It’s going from ‘I’m the expert, take my recommendation’ to ‘I am going to inform you and respect your wishes.’”

This idea of respecting and listening to a patient is at the heart of caring for all patients, but minority patients particularly benefit from an SDM approach. As we discussed in our post about transgender healthcare, an open dialogue and respect for how the patient would like to be addressed goes a long way to build trust for the patient; the same principle applies across minority groups.

The University of Chicago and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have developed a new project called Your Voice! Your Health! aimed at researching SDM’s influence on minority healthcare and facilitate healthcare improvements for the LGBTQ racial and ethnic minority community. The researchers note that the confluence of minority statuses make it particularly difficult for LGBTQ patients of color; as Monica Peek MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine told ScienceLife: “Racial/ethnic, sexual orientation, and gender identity minority status are all marginalized social identities, so they act in concert to further marginalize people who are trying to navigate the health care system.”

Because there is little existing research on LGBTQ patients of color, providers may not have the proper framework or tools for addressing their needs. Peek and her team developed a new conceptual model to illustrate how the patient and physician’s social identities effect SDM. As ScienceLife describes the strategy: “In the end, establishing trust boils down to how well a physician acknowledges her own identities in relation to those of her patients.” According to the group’s research, differences in social identity didn’t matter so long as the provider was compassionate and encouraged an educated dialogue, the hallmarks of a SDM approach.

program, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reviewed what made the initiative a success. At first they relied on physicians to order decision aids and educational materials for patients to encourage informed discussion, but they didn’t see immediate results. Once they trained all staff and involved patients directly, the use of decision aids increased substantially. Leigh Simmons, MD, medical director of the MGH Health Decision Sciences Center, said of the initiative: “There now is a big push toward more team-based care in medicine; and once we started to engage the entire team – including front desk staff, medical assistants and most crucially, the patients – we saw the use of decision aids take off.” Once the full staff and patients embraced the program, physicians reported that they had more advanced discussions with patients and they are able to focus on what’s important to their patients.

Do you use shared decision making practices in your facility? Do you find it easier to connect with patients using these techniques? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!

For more information on the Your Voice! Your Health! project and a useful tool for establishing a patient dialogue, check out the full ScienceLife article.

Creating a transgender-friendly healthcare environment starts with nurses

Nurses are often the face of their hospital; they are typically the first staff member to interact with the patient, and nurses are integral to providing a positive patient experience. In the ever-shifting landscape of culture, healthcare providers need to avoid discrimination and work to make sure patients feel at ease. While we have many resources that address cross-cultural competency (like this article from our Strategies for Nurse Manager’s reading room or the Health and Human Services’ guide), the medical community is just beginning to address how to effectively treat transgender patients. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released treatment guidelines for transgender patients, and it is vital that nursing staffs help battle unconscious bias and create a safe climate for all of their patients.

In 2010, Lambda Legal found that a staggering 70 percent of transgender people had experienced discrimination in a hospital setting, and a 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force reported that 19 percent of patients were denied healthcare because of their status (via the New York Times). Because of this, 28 percent of the respondents have postponed medical care when sick and 33 percent don’t pursue preventive care because of their past experiences with medical professionals.

Better nurse education would be a great start to counteract this trend of discrimination and improve the climate for transgender patients; and when it comes to educating your staff, a little can go a long way. Part of the problem is treatment knowledge, but many of the issues could be solved with improved sensitivity training. Basic language education, such as what pronouns to use and asking the patient how they’d like to be addressed, can make a transgender patient feel at ease. Adding a gender and preferred name component to medical records and ensuring that they are up to date can greatly improve the consistency and quality of care as well.

Janis Booth, RN, shares a great example of how hospital staff can help a transgender person feel at ease from one of her readers:

“My new doctor saw my list of meds and knew immediately and opened with, ‘You look great…how long ago did you begin your transition?’ Put me right at ease, immediately, even though my name change had not caught up with their record keeping. I presented new IDs and they updated my info.”

Small things like asking the right questions in a gentle way can open up the patient and make them more comfortable, which will make your job much easier as well. Nurses get to set the tone of the patient’s experience, so properly training your staff on gender issues can make all the difference for a transgender patient in need.

Here are some great training resources on the topic:

  • You can download the full AAMC guide here.
  • WBUR has a list of tips to get you started.
  • Janis Booth’s full article has a lot of great information as well.
  • TransRecord and RAD Remedy are sites dedicated to gathering and sharing data on trans-friendly providers.

JAMA: Nurses key to surviving surgery

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association has found that surgery patients in hospitals with better nursing environments receive better care without drastically increasing costs. Researchers found the 30-day mortality rate for postoperative patients was 4.8% at hospitals with more than 1.5 nurses per bed (NPB), while facilities with less than one NPB had a 30-day mortality rate of 5.8%.

“It wasn’t just the number of nurses that made the difference. Magnet status hospitals recognized for having excellent nursing programs and cultures do better,” study author Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, said in a press release.  

While there’ve been numerous studies showing the benefits of a bigger nursing staff, the cost of hiring new staff has been an impediment for many facilities. Despite this, better staffed hospitals actually paid less ($163) overall per patient than understaffed hospitals.