Invest in Interactive Media to Enhance Patient Experience

Marianne Aiello, September 29, 2010

I recently visited a relative in a Boston-area hospital and, as so often happens, found myself with a lot of down time while we waited for test results. After conversation was exhausted, I fished out my iPod Touch and was pleased to find that I could connect to the hospital wifi. Then I tried to access Facebook, YouTube, and Google Talk. All were blocked. I've asked around and found that blocking commonly visited websites on patient- and visitor-accessible networks isn't as uncommon as it should be.

Enabling patients, as well as their friends and family, to visit popular websites can increase satisfaction, argued Terry Kasdan, cofounder and Principal at Northbrook, IL, agency Communications, LLC and John Olson, media strategist at Chicago agency Inc!te at SHSMD on September 13.

In addition to granting unfettered access to websites, other media, such as patient portals, educational and entertaining video games, and a live ED wait time tracker can alleviate patient frustration, speakers said during their session, "Using Interactive Media to Enhance the Patient Experience."

This argument is one that, when taking the perspective of a patient, most people can agree on. While killing time on a laptop or other wifi-accessing device and waiting for a non-emergent appointment, most patients would only be further frustrated if they were not allowed to visit their favorite sites. I was annoyed as a visitor and I imagine I'd be significantly more annoyed if I were a patient.

When discussing other common hospital annoyances, Kasdan and Olson showed the SHSMD audience images and asked them to yell out what came to mind. The first image they showed was a long stretch of highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Attendees called out, "frustrating," "helpless," and "no end in sight." These feelings, the speakers said, are what many patients experience in the emergency room. Kasdan and Olson said organizations they worked with found that simply by posting accurate ER wait times in the lobby increased patient satisfaction. If they knew they wouldn't be seen for 20 minutes, they could run over to the hospital café without worrying about losing their spot.

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