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Collaborative effort leads to new patient engagement tool at Ohio State

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By Tyler Griesenbrock
CATALYST scientific editor

Published December 27, 2018

MyExperience, a new technology that allows patients to provide feedback to their caregivers, is now live at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The application, in development for more than a year, was a joint effort that brought together the expertise, resources and viewpoints of experts and stakeholders across the university, including the Center for the Advancement of Team Science, Analytics, and Systems Thinking in Health Services and Implementation Science Research (CATALYST) in the College of Medicine; the departments of Biomedical Informatics and Family Medicine in the College of Medicine; the BRAVO Faculty and Staff Recognition Program; Environmental Services; Facilities Operations and Development; University Marketing; Volunteer Services; hospital administration; Nutrition Services; and the Patient Experience Department.

“This was a collaborative effort,” said Timothy Huerta, PhD, MS, a member of CATALYST leadership as well as a professor of both family medicine and biomedical informatics. “Team science results in team products that are impactful.”

Amy Helder, the administrative director at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said Dr. Huerta developed the idea for MyExperience in collaboration with Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce, the executive director of University Hospital at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and professor of surgery and biomedical informatics as well as a practicing cardiothoracic surgeon.

“The simple reason why I think this is important is that it gives patients and families more control over their healthcare experience and it gives the organization feedback,” Helder said. That feedback can then be used to address the any concerns patients and their families may have.

Creating the system

Initial funding to develop MyExperience was provided by the Crisafi-Monte Endowment Fund, which is housed in the Department of Family Medicine. That funding was later augmented by time and support from other sources, such as the Patient Safety Advancement Grant, making it a truly collaborative effort.

“The hospital has invested money in both time and actual hard dollars to stand up the infrastructure necessary to make all this happen,” Dr. Huerta said.

MyExperience is available both on Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s MyChart Bedside tablets, which are provided to nearly all patients shortly after their admission to the hospital, as well as on personal devices via myexperience.osumc.edu.

Through either a tablet or the website, patients and their families can send eCards to clinicians or staff members who have a positive influence on their experience while at the medical center. Even if a patient doesn’t know the full name of the intended recipient, the system will allow them to create an eCard based on the location of the interaction.

“The first phase of MyExperience is just the kudos. How do we enable patients to, basically, recognize members of their care team? And it’s actually part of a number of projects that we’re working on in CATALYST that are enabling patients to have a voice about their experience with OSU,” Dr. Huerta said.

“Eventually, I want patients and their families, all the stakeholders, to also have a mechanism to tell us how to make life better,” Dr. Huerta commented. “It’s not just about saying, ‘Yay team!’ It’s about saying, ‘Yay team! Oh, hey, do you think we might resolve this problem?’ ”

This two-pronged approach, which entailed attention to both opportunities for employee recognition and operational goals, was innovative for the healthcare industry, Helder said.

“We recognized that (MyExperience) would be best developed in two branches,” she said. “The intention and heart of this project is really to foster a strong connection between both patients and caregivers (as well as between) our care team and the organization.”

Fostering that connection, Helder said, is why the MyExperience application is so important; it allows the university be more connected and to be a partner “in providing care to patients and their families.”

As part of the effort to create that connection, the system’s developers worked with patient and family advisors who are part of an advisory program at Ohio State to get feedback about the value of the tool as it was being constructed.

Working with the advisory program so closely is “really something that sets us apart from other universities,” Helder said.

That collaboration contributed to the development of an app that was user-friendly and useful.

Connecting with patients

The push toward giving patients the tools they need to engage with their health care is important to Dr. Huerta, and it’s something that will continue to grow as new technologies come online. In turn, those systems will benefit both patients and the organization as a whole.

He said that by creating a culture in which patients and staff can both offer praise and identify operational problems, data is generated that can be used to improve the healthcare system.

“Now we can look for patterns in the data on operational problems that tell us, ‘Oh, you know what, we consistently have this problem. We should change the way we do this to get rid of the problem.’ That’s the other side of the coin. It’s just not about positive reinforcement, it’s about being able to more effectively gather data and address the problems that we have more consistently,” he said.

That method of collecting data to improve systems is part of the core goal of CATALYST, which works to bring research findings into clinical practice. CATALYST, a center within Ohio State’s College of Medicine, is focused on advancing discovery through team science, leveraging the collaboration and coordination of experts who have training in a variety of fields. 

“I think one of the advantages of CATALYST is the multidisciplinary perspective that we bring to bear on problems,” Dr. Huerta said. “It’s not only a group of clinicians coming together to look at clinical and workforce problems. It’s health services researchers, it’s managers, it’s management, it’s management scholars, it’s a whole bunch of people. And what we see are these … opportunities where we can improve our processes if we can adopt structures that facilitate forward motion and quality improvement.”

Overall, Dr. Huerta noted he thinks empowering patients to provide feedback on the care they receive can be just as beneficial for the organization as it is for the patients themselves. 

“Why wouldn’t we want to empower patients, empower their guests, empower their family, empower their caregivers, to have a stronger voice and an efficient voice? A voice that gets to the ears that need to hear the story?” he said. “I think that those are really the things that drive our discovery, the things that drive our science. How do we make systems better? How do we look at things from a systems perspective to design the systems in a manner that drives operational excellence?”

For more information about CATALYST, visit go.osu.edu/catalyst. The MyExperience tool can be accessed on any MyChart Bedside tablet at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center or at myexperience.osumc.edu.