How To Choose A Partner To Help Enhance Your Patient And Family Education Strategy

It is the goal of all hospitals to make our patients and our communities healthier. As part of that, hospitals must become trusted partners in their patients’ pursuit of health and wellness. This begins with education. And when the patient is a child in the NICU or PICU, education becomes especially important for parents and families. From the moment a child is admitted to the NICU or PICU, parents need to feel as though their providers will go above and beyond to keep them informed and engaged.

To achieve this goal, hospitals must design and implement a comprehensive, parent, and family education program. But some hospitals don’t have the resources—staff, time, nor money—to focus on building this type of program. Such hospitals, along with those looking to enhance an existing program, can benefit by partnering with industry experts to help develop and maintain educational resources for parents and families of children in critical care units. When looking for a partner, hospitals should choose ones with the following capabilities.

  • Provide an online portal for easy access. Providing parents and families with paper-based educational materials is good, but the paper is easily misplaced or lost. Having the information available online helps ensure it is accessible when and where it’s needed from any internet-enabled mobile device. The portal should be available to parents and families from the moment of their child’s admission.
  • Offer a comprehensive document library. It is not uncommon for parents to “google” their child’s condition or care procedures, but the information they find may or may not be appropriate for the child’s specific situation. Having a single easy-to-navigate library of all pertinent information increases compliance and helps improve satisfaction as parents aren’t left to go searching for the information they need on their own.
  • Provide customizable educational materials. Canned educational materials can be sufficient in some cases. But for parents with children in the NICU or PICU, it is essential they have access to information customized for the child’s condition or procedure. This can reduce confusion, increase comprehension, and improve compliance and care experience.
  • Offer educational videos. Written information with heavy detail can be overwhelming for parents. Educational videos can improve clarity and retention.[1] This can be especially effective for parents and extended family caregivers.
  • Enable pre-recorded, personalized videos. For more complex procedures, it can be beneficial for the hospital to record instructions with the actual child and parents before discharge. This allows more child-specific instructions, which can reduce anxiety, increase compliance, and improve outcomes.
  • Provide access to all family members. The rehabilitation period for children who have been under critical care can be lengthy. In these cases, it is likely that more than one family member will be helping care for the child at home. And those family members need easy access to all educational materials. They shouldn’t have to rely on others to provide the information they need.
  • Make materials available for the full recovery period. As time passes or caregivers change, it is easy to forget details about the care plan. Rather than guessing, caregivers need to be able to access the information they need for the full length of the recovery period. This helps improve care plan compliance and outcomes.
  • Enable reporting and tracking. Once a child has been discharged from the hospital, it is impossible to know if parents are following care instructions. The best educational solutions provide hospitals with the ability to track how often educational materials have been accessed and by whom. Having this information helps inform outpatient caregivers of potential compliance issues and can assist them in preparing for follow-up calls and appointments.

The Bottom Line

Studies show that when care plan instructions are understood at the time of discharge, patients are 30% less likely to be readmitted or to visit the ER.[2] Partnering with a solutions provider to design a comprehensive education program for parents with children in the NICU or PICU can significantly impact quality outcomes and the care experience, both of which drive revenue, improve a hospital’s reputation in the community, and generate a healthier bottom line.



Leveraging education for parents with children in intensive care to improve care plan compliance and enhance key quality initiatives

Hero: About AngelEye Health

Millions of children are admitted to intensive care units each year for critical conditions, accidents, or surgeries. Besides the physical pain, the experience can cause emotional trauma as well. The fear, anxiety, and shock can be overwhelming for patients and their families. Often many families struggle with a sense of frustration and helplessness. Studies show that when parents and families are more educated about their child’s health conditions and care plans, they take a more active role in that care.

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Leveraging Education to Improve Care Plan Compliance and Enhance Key Quality Initiatives

Female hospital administrator working at desk

Millions of people enter the hospital each year for critical conditions, accidents, or surgeries. Besides the physical pain, the experience can cause emotional trauma as well. The fear, anxiety, and shock can be overwhelming. The patient’s family often struggles with a sense of frustration and helplessness. For families of neonates in NICUs, those feelings can be even more profound. Relieving these emotions requires hospitals to have a comprehensive program for educating patients and their families about the patient’s condition and care plan, providing as much detail as possible throughout the entire episode of care. But far too often, that doesn’t happen.

It’s not hard to remember a time when patients and their families were kept in the dark about what was going on. “Doctor knows best” was the motto and patients and their families just had to blindly trust the providers were doing what was best for the patient. But studies now show that patients who are more educated about their health conditions make better decisions about their care. And when patients and families make better decisions, it increases care plan compliance, a critical element for achieving quality outcomes.[1]

Post-discharge patients are 30% less likely to be readmitted or to visit the ER if they understand their care plan instructions.[2]

Yet even with this research, many hospitals and health systems still do just the minimal in the way of patient and family education. Whether due to a lack of resources, poor supervision, or just a weak culture, when hospitals don’t see value of sharing knowledge, patients suffer.

Designing an Educational Program

Following are three actions hospitals can take to begin designing a comprehensive education program for patients and their families.

Increase access to information. Transitioning from an acute care environment to the home can cause a great deal of anxiety, especially for patients who were being treated in a critical care unit or for their family caregivers. Between the time the patient receives discharge instructions to the time the patient arrives home, a lot of information can be forgotten. The result can be confusion on things such as when to change a dressing or how often to take medication. The latter is especially problematic as studies show that up to 40% of patients over 65 experience medication errors after discharge.[3] The same study found that 18% of Medicare patients are readmitted within just 30 days after discharge due to complications. Patients and their families need a way to easily access that information whenever and from wherever they need it. Paper instructions can get lost or misplaced and verbal instructions can be misunderstood and easily forgotten. Having ready access from a mobile device or desktop gives patients and their family added confidence that they have the information needed to manage at-home care.

Create an online educational resource center. In the same vein as having access to information when and where they need it, patients need that information to be comprehensive, yet easy to understand. Documentation should be available to print for patients who prefer to have a physical copy of instructions. Information should be specific to each patient’s unique condition and care plan needs. If you don’t want to customize to each patient, you should at least customize to the condition. You also want to make sure the information is accessible my family members and that it’s available for as long as the patient is in recovery at home.

Providers and case managers should be able to view which documents or videos have been viewed and by whom. If a patient hasn’t viewed any documents, this may be a red flag for non-compliance. Caregivers can schedule follow-up calls to address any concerns or questions that may arise.

Create educational videos. Video has now become the format of choice for many educational programs, primarily because people retain more of what they learn.[4] Reading step-by-step static instructions on a piece of paper can be confusing. But showing those same instructions in a video helps the patient or family member better understand the procedure. Even more beneficial is taking the video with the actual patient in the hospital setting prior to discharge. This can be especially effective for things like enteral feeding or treating wounds.

A Key Part of Your Quality Initiatives

Achieving and maintaining key quality criteria has a direct impact on a hospital’s HCAHPS scores, not to mention its long-term viability. And having a comprehensive education program for patients and their families is an essential part of that effort. Educated patients make take a more active role in their own health and are more likely to stay in compliance with their care plan. Hospitals benefit through better outcomes, increased reimbursement, and improved patient satisfaction.





Three Virtual Technologies that Enhance Parental Engagement and Improve NICU Outcomes

Pic: happy couple on tablet computer

One of life’s greatest joys is having a baby. However, when the baby is born prematurely, that joy can be overshadowed by anxiety and stress. On top of the concern for the baby’s health, parents can feel overwhelming insecure about leaving their newborn in the hospital. Especially while getting back to their normal life routines, particularly when the stay extends for weeks or months. And they have good reason to be concerned. When parents are actively engaged, neonates experience better outcomes.

  • Babies exposed to maternal sounds in the NICU experience fewer cardiorespiratory events.[1]
  • Preterm babies exposed to parental talk achieve higher language and cognitive scores at 7 and 18 months.[2]
  • Exposure to parental talk is a strong predictor of infant vocalizations.[3]

Increasing access to the NICU for parents and families should be considered an essential part of a neonatal care program. It is often difficult for parents to travel to see their little ones. All hospitals with neonatal ICUs can relieve this stress by leveraging virtual engagement technology.

Bedside web cameras

Studies show a link between postpartum maternal distress and adverse cognitive, behavioral, and psychomotor development in infants. Web cameras placed at the bedside can help relieve this stress by allowing parents to view their infant at any time from a web-enabled device. With audio capabilities, the parent can verbally interact with the baby as well. In addition to helping the mother and father, it also provides the infant with the health advantages of parental talk, even though they aren’t physically present.

When choosing a web camera technology, look for one that allows parents to view multiple babies with the same login. Choose those that are easy for staff to use and that provide staff with multiple views on a single screen. Consider solutions that offer the ability to easily reposition the camera without having to log into the system to verify the change. While 24/7 viewing is optimal, there may be times when the camera needs to be turned off for privacy. Look for a solution that offers a bedside switch. Integration with the EMR and bed management system is also important.

Clinical communication

Technology can support communication between the care team and family, increasing trust and making the process more efficient. Video technology is great for capturing clinical updates or rounds when parents are unable to be present. The videos can be used internally to improve clinician-clinician communication. Sharing information becomes easier and helps improve patient hand-offs while reducing gaps in care. Beyond improving internal workflows, videos can be shared with parents to help provide additional information captured in real-time that may be overlooked during a phone conversation.

When choosing video technology, look for high-resolution and superior audio quality. Lower quality solutions may be cheaper, but they can be confusing if the information presented in the video can’t be understood. Be sure to ask if video storage is HIPAA compliant and for what timeframe videos are accessible and by whom.

For many NICUs, the primary form of communication with families is the phone. This is especially true when the parents live in a rural area where traveling to the hospital is difficult. Virtual tools such as interactive text can help improve information-sharing and reduce phone calls, leaving clinicians more time to focus on direct patient care.

The best virtual communication solutions provide a variety of features such as one-way messages pushed similar to text, as well as photo and video updates, and family message boards. Another great feature is Google Translate, which translates more than 100 languages, helping to improve communication and accuracy of information shared. It also helps make communication between the staff and the family more efficient. Patient satisfaction surveys provide an added benefit by being able to capture family feedback easily. This real-time feedback can be invaluable for driving quality improvements in the NICU.

Online education

When most neonates leave the hospital, they continue to require specialized care. This can be overwhelming for parents and family caregivers. Providing them with the resources they need can go a long way in reducing their anxiety and improving adherence to care plans. Education is also important for reducing readmissions and achieving the best long-term health outcomes. Having educational tools available 24/7 can help ease the transition from hospital to home for both the infant and the family.

Look for solutions that provide an easy-to-use platform that can be accessed on a desktop as well as a mobile device. It should have multiple logins so that each family member caring for the infant can easily access the information they need when they need it. Documentation should be customizable to the infant’s specific condition and should be provided in a user-friendly library format. In some cases, videos can provide more detailed guidance than documentation. Look for solutions that offer both pre-recorded videos and the ability to record videos in real-time. It’s also helpful to have a solution that allows clinicians to validate which materials have been viewed. This enables clinicians to conduct more informed follow-up calls to ensure compliance or to address concerns.

Relieving stress. Improving outcomes.

We are achieving remarkable advancements in the care of premature and high-risk neonates. Unfortunately, this often results in longer stays in the NICU and longer separation between infants and their parents and family. By leveraging technology-enabled virtual engagement solutions, hospitals can enhance the patient, parent, and family experience while improving health outcomes.