How high-quality medical supplies improve the patient experience of care

July 23, 2020

Whereas in the past, patient satisfaction was something that most health systems and hospitals hoped to deliver, today they have no choice but to improve their customers’ experience. With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) providing reimbursements based on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient satisfaction scores, and these scores readily available to healthcare consumers online, healthcare facilities are carefully analyzing what factors play into what patients perceive as a positive versus negative episode of care. That is why “improving the patient experience of care” is a key component of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Triple Aim initiative.

Low-cost, high-volume medical supplies – from IV tubing to breathing masks – have a major impact on patient experience because they come into close and frequent contact with a high percentage of patients and are repeatedly replaced during the course of care. In the first article of this series, we provided an overview of how these supplies impact overall cost, quality and outcomes. In this article, we focus on the impact of medical supplies on patient satisfaction, providing specific examples of product design features that can improve comfort throughout the care continuum.

The link between medical supplies,
patient satisfaction

The HCAHPS survey is the first national, standardized, publicly-reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care. Launched in 2006, it is the leading tool for how CMS incentivizes hospitals for delivering superior patient experience in their facilities.

Patients and/or their family members complete the survey after discharge, and it is conceivable that their engagement with medical accessories while in the facility could impact how they respond to particular questions, especially as they relate to pain management, noise levels and sleep quality.

Unlike many pieces of capital equipment in a hospital, medical accessories often touch the patients’ bodies or are in close proximity during their entire stay. With that level of intimacy, patients pay close attention to details. They recognize when a supply is causing pain, discomfort or noise, but even smell and other more nuanced details can often have an impact as well.

A device that is more comfortable and pleasing to a patient can have a direct impact on that patient’s outcomes. For example, a poor-fitting pulse oximetry or ECG sensor might result in false alarms, which contribute to a nurse’s alarm fatigue and increase the risk that nurses could ignore a real emergency if it occurs. In addition, if a product is known to cause discomfort and irritation, nurses, family members and other staff may disconnect the product or create “workarounds” that could unwittingly compromise care.

Supplies designed with the patient in mind

Recognizing the link between high-quality medical supplies and high-quality care, manufacturers have been designing products to deliver a better patient experience. Here are just two examples of medical supplies with design features aimed at improving comfort, satisfaction and safety.

Oxygen delivery systems: Many patients find it unsettling to wear a breathing mask, let alone one that is ill-fitting, uncomfortable and irritating. Look for a manufacturer with a product line that features a variety of sizes and styles to fit different faces and therapy needs.

 For patients who are at risk for pressure sore it is suggested rotating between different facial interface types. Select a manufacturer that has a wide range of mask types and contact surfaces, including nasal cannula offerings, to accommodate different facial and nasal features. Masks featuring air and gel cushioning are best for creating an effective and comfortable seal.

Blood pressure cuffs: Blood pressure cuffs are another example of a medical supply that is frequently used during the course of care but often overlooked in terms of patient satisfaction. Considering that a blood pressure cuff worn in an acute care environment may compress on a patient’s arm hundreds of times all day and night before they are discharged, it is critical that the device be as comfortable as possible.

While most people are able to easily tolerate one-time use of a blood pressure cuff on their arm in a clinic, continuous monitoring of non-invasive blood pressure in an acute care setting demands that the cuffs fit extremely well to minimize patient discomfort and the need for nurses to adjust the items during the stay. The accuracy of a blood pressure reading is dependent on the cuff fitting correctly over the appropriate anatomical landmarks.

Select a manufacturer that offers a broad portfolio of both reusable and disposable blood pressure cuffs in a wide range of sizes, including neonate, pediatric and adult. Look for a more anatomical approach to cuff sizing for application on the upper arm and thigh to accommodate both the smallest and largest patients. Blood pressure cuffs should feature soft, rounded edges for increased comfort and easier handling, as well as hook-and-loop fastening to avoid skin contact, prevent irritation and improve flexibility. Furthermore, all cuffs should be DEHP-, latex-, and PVC-free.

For more information on how to improve patient comfort, satisfaction and safety through high-quality medical supplies and accessories, read this Frost & Sullivan white paper: Patient-Centric Care Models and Reimbursement Incentives Demand Hospitals Explore Every Opportunity to Improve the Experience, Even in Subtle Ways Achieving Triple Aim Goals with the Help of High-Quality, Innovative Medical Supplies.

1. The IHI Triple Aim,