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My best tips and tricks for your surgery program
By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Caffeine. You know how you feel when you are one cup of coffee over the line? Everything is jumbled and irritating, and you just want to lash out at someone! What an uncomfortable feeling that is, for you and for those around you (as I have been told...). We see it with the surgeons, staff, anesthesia, front desk staff seemingly everyone is wired just a bit too tight.
Solution: Swap out your lounge coffee with half-caff coffee. It has half the normal caffeine, but you cannot tell the difference in taste. I know from first-hand experience. Try it.
Consider these other solutions to some of your most common problems:
You and I know you want only the best customer service for your patients. But how do you know your staff is being helpful to patients or just tolerating them? Increasingly it seems as if those patient satisfaction surveys are coming back with things such as, "The front desk staff was rude and didn't care" or "No one addressed my problem when I called about ..." You cannot please all the people all the time. However! Most of the time, these complaints are legitimate. I have seen it myself.
Solution: Secret shoppers. For the price of a movie ticket, you can ask your family members or neighbors to pose as a patient calling into your facility with a question that is confusing at best. Find out how your staff responds. Have them come into the center and ask questions directly to the staff. Sometimes that cute and perky receptionist is not all she is cracked up to be. Nothing hurts your reputation faster than surly staff. Another tip: Let the staff know that you are going to be doing this, and then don't do it! Just knowing the next patient might be a secret shopper can go a long way!
Patients are savvy. Thanks to the internet, they are much more educated today that ever. They understand the lingo and know what NPO means. Does your staff? At a recent audit of a large hospital system last month, we discovered how much the "front of the house" (registration, billing, patient intake, etc.) do not understand common jargon for surgery.
Solution: Test them! Your clinical staff can get a "bye" on this exercise since it is understood that they know it, but chances are that others do not. Make up a list of common surgical phrases, and make a game of it. Distribute it to the front-of-the-house personnel, and see how they do. Use works like: PACU, NPO, EOB, DOB, and anything else you want to add. Give movie tickets for the highest score.
No one will ever have enough storage space. It makes no difference how large your department or center is. You will not have enough.
Solution: Rent an inexpensive storage locker. They are everywhere and great for getting those Christmas trees and other items that are seasonal out of your center and out from under your feet.
Waiting room blues.
We are all accustomed to being entertained when we wait in lines or waiting rooms, so why not in surgery? Yeah, I know, you have TVs, but those are so...90s.
Solution: Put Wi-Fi in the waiting room, and post signs letting people know you have it. Most patients carry devices that can connect online. I noticed almost half of the waiting room I was in last week had iPads. Name the actual Wi-Fi connection something cool such as "Because-We-Care." (Yes, you can label it anything. Get your IT staff to set it up.) Save yourself some hassle and don't "password it." If you must, put the password right on the sign that says you have it.
What's that smell?
Does your center or department stink? Surprise: Most do! You can't smell it because you're accustomed to it. Trust me. Many places have an odor.
Solution: When your secret shoppers come in, get an honest smell test from them. Some smells you cannot get rid of, so wise staff put in those little glass bottles you can buy with scents in them. Good idea. The one I was in, however, used vanilla as the scent. It made me so hungry I would have eaten anything I saw! Not good if you are NPO.
[Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Contact Earnhart at 13492 Research Blvd., Suite 120-258, Austin, TX 78750-2254. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.earnhart.com. Twitter: SurgeryInc.]