Improving Patient Engagement & Empowerment—There’s An App For That

For months, Tisha Burkholder would leave work in the evening and head straight to Children’s Nebraska to be with her 18-year-old son, Patrick, hospitalized multiple times for surgeries related to a twisted colon. Instead of waking up her tired teenager to report the day’s medical updates, Tisha was able to turn to a new tool that put all of Patrick’s health information at her fingertips: Children’s Connect Bedside.

“I could see when and how tests and lab results came back, what medicine he’d taken or review how his temperature and heart rate had been throughout the day,” says Burkholder. “It was huge to have so much information available to me; it definitely made me feel more involved in his care.”

That’s the goal, according to Corey Joekel, M.D., Children’s chief medical informatics officer. “Children’s Connect Bedside is a tool meant to engage and empower patients and families; they see the exact same information their providers are seeing. It’s their window into what’s happening around that hospitalization.”

The tablet-based application allows patients and families to interact and communicate with their health care team during an inpatient hospital stay, giving them transparent access to their own electronic medical record. Patient families may be familiar with a similar offering used in outpatient and primary care settings, Children’s Connect; however, on the inpatient side of health care, the patient portal concept isn’t as common. In fact, Children’s is only the second pediatric hospital nationwide to provide the bedside tool.

Children’s owns and maintains 160 iPads loaded with the Children’s Connect Bedside application—enough for every hospitalized patient family to receive one in any inpatient unit. When a child is admitted, a nurse or certified nursing assistant will issue the tablet to a parent or guardian and link it to the child’s unique medical record.

The whole process takes a matter of minutes, but it’s moving the needle on patient engagement and satisfaction in a meaningful way. Of surveyed parents who have experienced Children’s Connect Bedside:

  • 96% agree that it’s a useful tool.
  • 92% agree that it improves communication between the family and the care team.
  • 85% agree that it improves the quality of their child’s care.
  • 84% agree that it gives them the information they need to make decisions about their child’s care.

The numbers prove the value of Children’s Connect Bedside, but it’s the comments from family members that get to the heart of its impact.

“It gives me reassurance when I feel alone or upset.”

“It makes me feel more in control and part of the team.”

“This tool is the best thing offered to parents.”

Tisha Burkholder no longer needed a notebook to keep track of her questions for Patrick’s care team. During his most recent hospitalizations, she just typed her questions into the app—to ask when doctors came by or message them directly. “It was awesome to have that connection and communication available 24/7.”

Dr. Joekel and his information technology team understand that access is something patient families want—and expect—more than ever.

“A lot of our millennial families are extremely connected through social media and the internet. They live and breathe it,” he explains. “As an organization, we want to leverage that to improve care, transparency and safety.”

“This app is 100 percent for our patients and families.”

—Corey Joekel, M.D., Children’s Chief Medical Informatics Officer

The latter is another critical benefit to utilizing Children’s Connect Bedside; when parents can review their child’s medical information and ask questions, there are more eyes and ears locked in to catch errors.

Seven families have spotted something inaccurate in their child’s record, and then spoken up to alert the care team. “When parents are more aware and empowered, the tool becomes an extra error prevention mechanism,” explains Ryan Zulkoski, nursing informatics manager. “This is one more way Children’s is practicing safe medicine.”

From reviewing a doctor’s notes to requesting a blanket with the touch of a screen, children and parents are utilizing Children’s Connect Beside—and embracing it as a go-to resource.

“When Patrick was last admitted, I requested the tablet right away,” says Burkholder. “I said, ‘Where’s our iPad?’ This is how I handle this now.”

“This app is 100 percent for our patients and families—not for doctors or nurses,” adds Dr. Joekel. “It’s for them—and they love it.”

Children’s Connect Bedside Features

  • Vital Signs
  • Diagnoses List
  • Medication List & Schedule
  • Care Team Photos & Bios
  • Test and Lab Results
  • Provider Notes
  • Care Team Photos and Bios
  • Questions for Daily Rounds
  • Patient Education
  • Menu
  • Calendar of Events
  • I Would Like … (for non-urgent requests)

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