CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

January 23, 2013

CRMC followup care improved with new tech for patients, staff

By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Officials at Cullman Regional Medical Center revealed progress on some emerging technological initiatives Tuesday, describing the hospital’s aggressive adoption of common, everyday technologies to assist in patient follow-up care as ‘leading edge.’

“We just happen to be on what I would say is the leading edge of introducing new technologies to our community and our patients,” said hospital CEO Jim Weidner at a press conference Tuesday. “We recognize that the consumer — the patient — is becoming more technologically savvy. They expect more transparency; more information from their health care provider. It’s not just a matter of taking care of someone, releasing them and then they’re on their own.”

In an endeavor to cultivate in patients a stronger understanding of what they should do to maintain their care following a hospital stay, CRMC has embraced a still-developing technology that allows patients ready access to crucial information about their followup care using their smartphones or home computers.

Called the Good to Go healthcare education app, the program works with Android or Apple mobile devices by allowing CRMC caregivers to capture audio instructions to patients upon discharge, and supplies patient-specific educational videos, pictures and documents to assist patients — and their loved ones — in investing in their own recovery.

Using Good to Go, patients can clarify follow-up appointments, medication information and discharge instructions in the days and weeks after their hospital stay. With a patient’s consent, family members and other caregivers can also access the recorded instructions using the patient’s unique ID number and login information.

Cheryl Bailey, chief nursing officer at CRMC, said the hospital’s adoption of the Good to Go program stemmed from medical staff’s observations that patients often struggle to  recall the many instructions they receive upon discharge.

“Being in the hospital can be very overwhelming — we cover so much information for the patients regarding the disease process, medications, diet and activity, to name a few,” said Bailey. “Our staff was noticing that, many times, when they would go into the patient room to provide discharge information, the patients were really not focused on that education. They were ready to go home, and the nurse was the only thing standing between them and the door — so they were not focused.

“Our staff also identified that, many times, the primary care giver was not in the room to hear the discharge instructions. Then, when they would get home, the primary care giver may ask the patient, ‘Hey mom, did they change your medication?’ and the patient may say, ‘Well, they reviewed the medications with me, and they made some changes, but I’ve got so many medications — I just don’t really remember.’ Those are problems that put the patient at risk for being readmitted to the hospital, because they failed to follow their discharge plan that the physician wrote out for them.”

Because the Good to Go technology has produced measurable results at CRMC, the hospital was honored last month with the 2012 Spirit of Excellence Award for Patient Safety, given by industry publication Modern Healthcare.

The publication noted CRMC saw an initial 7 percent drop (a figure that’s since climbed to 15 percent, according to hospital officials) in patient readmissions after adopting the Good to Go program in Oct. 2011, as well as a near 60 percent increase in patient satisfaction scores after discharge.

To date, CRMC is the only Alabama hospital using Good to Go. As a developing technology, Good to Go is being continually refined, and CRMC’s role as a Beta Site partner in that process ensures that many of the application’s enhancements will derive from its real-life use among local patients and medical staff.

Weidner said there’s nothing proprietary about good outcomes, and CRMC staff have engaged the medical profession nationwide to share their expertise in administering the program.

“Our outcomes have been terrific. The beauty of our industry, especially here in Alabama, is the sharing of technology and best practices with other hospitals for the betterment of patient safety,” said Weidner.

“This technology-in-process has produced such excitement within our industry that Cheryl Bailey and Paula Burks, our Director of Nursing, have been guest speakers and presenters at national conferences in New Orleans; in Denver, in Washington, D.C. and in Nashville, and have given numerous webinars — the most notable to the American Hospital Association, with over 500 hospitals in attendance.”

Visit www.crmchospital.com/for_patients_guests/good-to-go_discharge_instructions.aspx for more on CRMC’s work with the Good to Go program.



* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.