Leveraging technology to transform the patient experience

By Carla Wintersgill

Outbreak season can be hard on patients whose family members are too sick to visit. But thanks to some creative use of technology at Runnymede Healthcare Centre, patients can still connect face-to-face with their families via video calling.

Arranging Skype and Facetime calls for patients during outbreak is just one of the ways Runnymede is transforming the patient experience by leveraging technology to enhance the hospital’s patient-centred care.

“We are always looking for innovations in support of excellent patient care,” says Sharleen Ahmed, vice president of quality, strategy and clinical programs. “Using technology has enabled us to transform the way we work to enhance customer service and satisfaction at the hospital.”

Facilitating instant family and patient feedback is part of that customer service approach. As part of Runnymede’s commitment to ongoing quality improvement, the hospital is introducing real-time patient experience survey kiosks throughout the facility.

Real-time data collection enables Runnymede to gather ongoing feedback from patients and families on an hourly, daily or weekly basis so the hospital can constantly enhance the patient experience. It also offers the ability to measure patient satisfaction immediately and on an ongoing basis, as well as providing an opportunity for patients and visitors to provide feedback in a continuous, user friendly and accessible way. The system allows comments on service and care to be sent immediately to responsible departments so they can be addressed in a timely manner. While the survey responses are completely anonymous, patients and family members can choose to self-identify through a video testimonial feature on the survey.

Runnymede has also adopted a formalized video storytelling process as a means of improving quality through memorable staff education. Personal storytelling serves to make concepts real and helps crystallize policy thinking by putting real faces to the standards of care. In its guide to using storytelling in healthcare improvement, The Health Foundation, a UK-based healthcare charity, notes that stories of real-life events are used because they are more memorable than data or lengthy manuals, are an established way for board members to focus discussions on quality and patient experience, and speak strongly to frontline staff, who are often the most motivated by their individual interactions with patients.

Finally, the hospital is partnering with OpenLab, a design and innovation centre at the University Health Network to embark on its first ever research project to bring immersive virtual reality (VR) to patients at Runnymede.

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OpenLab’s pilot project, VRx, explores and evaluates the potential benefits of using VR with various patient populations. The VRx prototype is a series of short, immersive 360 degree films designed to provide a calming experience for participating patients. Exposing patients to VR could elicit buried memories that have been previously forgotten, and may also offer a virtual vehicle that can move patients beyond the walls of the hospital or confines of a bed.

At Runnymede, the activation and communications departments will be collaborating with OpenLab to use the immersive VR technology with patients at the hospital and then evaluate any benefits that are observed.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to participate in this leading edge research project at Runnymede,” says Julie Hiroz, director, communications at Runnymede. “Implementing new patient-centred initiatives that help enhance the patient experience is a key priority for everyone at the hospital, and we are hopeful that this new research partnership with OpenLab will have a variety of benefits for our patients.”

As Runnymede moves forward with its first research project, it is cementing its position as a healthcare leader and demonstrating an ongoing commitment to its patients by leveraging new technologies that will heighten their experience at the hospital and raise the bar on the quality of care.

Carla Wintersgill is a Communications Specialist at Runnymede Healthcare Centre.