Can a Wayfinding App Increase your Hospital’s Medicare Bonus?

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Rosemarie Francis

Rosemarie Francis
October 14, 2015

EteluMediLocator blue dot navigation screen on iPhone
Patient satisfaction has always been a focus area for most hospitals, but now that satisfaction ratings are tied to Medicare reimbursements, the issue has taken on new importance.

Since 2012, as part of the Affordable Care Act, one percent of Medicare reimbursements – an amount totaling roughly $850 million – has been withheld from hospitals and placed in a bonus pool, used to reward hospitals based on their adherence to clinical performance guidelines and patient-satisfaction ratings. The withholding rate will double in 2017, creating a bonus pool of more than $1.5 billion.

Patient-satisfaction ratings, as determined by the industry-standard HCAHPS survey, represent 30 percent of the bonus score, so hospitals are, understandably, doing what they can to generate positive survey results. Most of the survey questions are clearly tied to the quality of medical care – nurse and doctor communication, pain management, cleanliness of the environment – but there are two in particular that address the hospital experience as a whole: question 21 asks for an overall hospital rating, and question 22 gauges willingness to recommend the hospital to others.

Perceptions matter
When answering these two questions, a wide range of experiences – some of them completely unrelated to actual care received – can stand out in a patient’s mind. Maybe it’s the cost of items in the gift shop, the lack of vegetarian dishes on the cafeteria menu, or some other issue, but just one frustrating experience, even if it has little or nothing to do with clinical performance, can prompt a rating downgrade.

There is, of course, the idea that you can’t please all the people all the time, and maybe hospitals should simply expect a certain percentage of negative survey responses. But there’s one aspect of hospital care that almost always influences a patient’s perception of the experience, and that’s indoor wayfinding.

Location-related confusion
Nearly a third of all first-time visitors to a hospital get lost, and even repeat visitors report difficulties finding where they need to go. Add to this the fact that many patients are already in a stressed state when they arrive – worried, distracted, rushed, or dealing with a physical difficulty – and even small problems with indoor route-finding can quickly lead to frustration and bad impressions.

Apps guide the way
To avoid this kind of negative experience, a growing number of hospitals now offer an interactive mobile app that provides real-time wayfinding. In the same way that drivers use GPS navigation, patients (and visitors) use a wayfinding app to navigate their way through the hospital complex. Since more than two thirds of Americans now have a smartphone, and rely heavily on mobile apps for information, hospitals can be confident they’ll have a sizable – and receptive – audience for this kind of app.

My company, Etelu, develops mobile apps for healthcare and education, and has created a number of wayfinding apps for different hospitals. To ensure the fastest, most accurate guidance indoors, we’ve partnered with Awarepoint, so as to make use of their highly precise technology for indoor triangulation. Building on Awarepoint’s healthcare solution, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), our custom wayfinding apps let patients pinpoint their current location and track progress, from floor to floor or from building to building, as they’re guided to their destination.

The hospitals we work with are unanimous: not only does a wayfinding app reduce the cost of helping patients find where they need to go, it can do a lot to increase satisfaction. And that, in turn, can boost results for questions like 21 and 22 on the HCAHPS survey, for a possible uptick in Medicare reimbursements.

This article was written by Rosemarie Francis, CEO of Etelu. Etelu is a Technology Innovation Company specializing in HealthCare that has developed the MediLocator App that is the only proven HealthCare app that gives blue dot turn by turn directions as well as find a doctor, find a lab or clinic, track a loved one through surgery, pay your bill online and many more features.