In 2011, the NHS Confederation released its insights and thoughts on the challenge of improving patient experience. Even at that time, they knew something had to be done to address the feedback the NHS was receiving from patients, staff and visitors.
Faced with a barrage of regulations, there are several obstacles they face when trying to deliver quality care. Here are four challenges in improving the quality of healthcare and how to overcome them.
1. Budget Restraints
It’s always been difficult to transition in the healthcare industry because of the financial constraints and red tape. This means innovations are either delayed or locked away completely, even if the change itself would improve the services offered.
With patients suffering as a result of tight budgeting in healthcare management, it’s a major challenge to overcome.
The NHS was tasked with finding £22 billion in savings by 2020. These severe financial pressures mean Trusts are understandably reluctant to green-light any projects they feel aren’t essential or are too costly. This mentality saves money but it can get in the way of improvements that will actually have a significant impact on patients across the UK.
In April 2020 against the backdrop of COVID19, new unprecedented challenges were upon us, compounding budgets further. There were already 107 trusts with an average of £100 million revenue debt each, with the two trusts with the highest debts reaching a combined total of over £1 billion. In response, the Health Secretary announced over £13 billion of debt will be written off as part of a major financial reset for NHS providers.
Innovators often have to go through lengthy processes to get anything done. This is especially true if the change they’re suggesting isn’t a short-term cash-saving measure. For the best chance of success, innovation needs to improve patient experience, be financially viable and target a common complaint that patients, visitors and staff have.
Come prepared with clear facts and figures and have convincing measures of impact to showcase the advantages of your proposed solution. Involve respected senior figures and use hard data to demonstrate the extent of the problem to get your point across. Involve patient stories and real-life case studies to secure emotional engagement from decision-makers.
Example: Take hospital meal ordering, it’s a process in many hospitals that’s been done in the same way as it was 50 years ago, with pen and paper. So much food is eventually wasted because this system doesn’t account for patients being discharged, having to be moved to a different ward or nil-by-mouth.
A patient engagement system that facilitates digital meal ordering would see an average-sized hospital save around £182,000 per year. If improved care isn’t a big enough reason to rise to the challenge of change, the money saved will be.
2. Minimal Support for Staff
Demand for NHS care is increasing year on year - even more so now. At the front line, staff are stretched thin. Between patients, protocol and processes, healthcare is a hectic place to be. The improvements noted in the Quality of care in the English NHS: In the balance report were solid, but because of the pressures the NHS is now facing, more support is needed.
But the important question is: are these pressures having a detrimental effect on the quality of care patients receive?
High-quality patient care relies on the motivated and skilled workforce who not only are physically and mentally well enough to do their jobs, but also feel valued, well supported and engaged.
Staff need the skills, time and headspace to both maintain the quality of care and improve it too. The reasons for wanting this are clear, but making time for it can seem less straightforward for busy healthcare workers.
To provide safe, sustainable, patient-centred care, it’s dependent on a healthy and engaged
workforce with good mental and physical wellbeing. Ultimately, demotivated staff will be unlikely to be receptive to change, even if they can potentially improve the quality of care.
To make sure everybody is on board with the transition; education and support need to be readily available and accessible for all. There are many examples of good practice where NHS organisations are highly committed to promoting health and wellbeing in their workforce through intelligent platforms.
Investment in staff support can have a domino effect on the other challenges mentioned in this blog. Research has found that doctors who feel more engaged are significantly less likely to make mistakes.
There’s an undeniable link between levels of engagement and wellbeing among NHS staff and the quality of care those staff can deliver. Empowering staff with innovative patient engagement platforms that help them better deliver patient-centric care not only makes their job easier, but can also give them time back to spend on those who need it most.
3. Limited Buy-in
One of the most fundamental, but often least well met, challenges in improvement is to first convince healthcare workers that there’s a real problem to be addressed.
With staff motivated and well-informed, next you need to consider hospital-wide buy-in. For any project to be successful, you need to set clear expectations for the management team. Everything from the budget to timescales needs to be carefully decided and communicated with them.
Over-ambitious goals and too much talk of ‘transformation’ can make staff feel the change is impossible.
Any change that impacts the day-to-day work of staff needs their input. Firstly, staff should understand what the change is hoping to accomplish and why it’s needed in the first place. Ideally, it should be something they’re already aware of.
Using peer-led debate and discussion, staff need to be updated at all stages of the change. From concept and implementation through to continuation, it’s important they don’t feel left in the dark. There should be ample opportunity for them to offer their thoughts and opinions.
From the outside looking in, it’s sometimes difficult to see the kind of impact a process is having on a department. Feedback is a vital part of implementing any change in the healthcare sector. Getting insight from those closest to the problem is valuable and ensures you can shape process change in the most effective way.
4. Evolving Patient Needs
The desire to improve patient experience in hospitals isn’t a new concept. Some of the most frustrating challenges faced by NHS staff can be eased by investing in improvements that will make a real difference.
Clunky bedside TVs. When they were first introduced, they were seen as a fantastic innovation that would improve a patient’s experience. They were rated so highly that many Trusts agreed to be tied into lengthy contracts with providers. It’s a barrier in itself to break free from these, especially if you don’t know what else is out there.
They’re the subject of regular complaints from patients who are frustrated with either the cost of the systems or the fact they’re simply not working how they’d like them to, especially when it’s left to the staff to figure them out.
Previously seen as a modern solution to occupy patients during hospital stays, they were an improvement on what had come before. With hindsight, however, nobody is surprised they quickly became out of date when you consider the rate in which technology has advanced in recent years.
There are innovative alternatives available that utilise patients’ own devices, providing a reliable WiFi solution to log on to. This eliminates the need for unreliable hardware and gives patients the freedom to access unlimited entertainment via their own phone or tablet.
Significantly, these systems can be used to collate the valuable feedback that’s such a key part of the NHS’ framework. Surveys, completed online via the systems, give Trusts the information they need to shape services in a more effective way in the future. They also have education available so it’s easier for staff to communicate to patients their condition.
Feedback collation can be part of a wider platform that includes patient entertainment. For patients to access this and many other innovative services, hospitals need to consider switching the systems they use.
These systems are a huge improvement on legacy systems and when introduced, they significantly boost patient, visitor and staff satisfaction.
Solutions like this, alongside the untiring dedication of the staff, will ensure we can continue to deliver the best quality of care. To see how your Trust can benefit from a solution, you need to find a system that’s right for you. That’s where our quiz can help.
Find the Right Patient-Centred Care Solution for You
If you’re interested in finding out how patient entertainment systems have evolved and what modern platforms can do for the NHS, staff and their patients - then click to start our quiz below.
It can be difficult to know what will alleviate the challenges you face but it takes into consideration your CQUIN target focus, budget and requirements and matches you with a solution that can revolutionise your patient care.