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What can staff tell you? You'll be surprised
Ask employees for their opinions
Annual employee satisfaction surveys conducted annually by Greater Baltimore (MD) Medical Center have told Jeanne Day, RHIA, CHAM, director of medical records and patient access, a lot about her staff.
"We develop action plans as a result of that feedback," she says. Staff members answer 34 questions, including how well their group works as a team and whether they feel respected, she says.
Once Day gets back the results, she works with staff to develop a plan for whatever was identified as the top priority. For 2011, she says, it was the ability to work as a team with employees in clinical areas.
Patient access leaders now meet monthly with supervisors from the emergency department, obstetrics, laboratories, and other clinical areas to work on this area, says Day. "It's a work in progress. We have found it is helpful to meet face to face with these managers, so issues can be resolved in a timely manner," she says.
The department no longer has formal staff meetings, says Day, because it was just too difficult to pull staff together at the same time. Also, there is often a need to disseminate information to staff immediately, she adds. "Instead, we hold more informal meetings, which are more of a huddle with the staff," she says. "We hold these on an as-needed basis to keep them updated."
Hold group lunches
Each month, Day and the associate director of patient access invite a small group of employees to lunch. All staff members receive the opportunity to attend a lunch meeting at least once a year, she says, and they are given the chance to make specific suggestions for the department.
"There is no specific agenda. We ask them what is working well and what they feel are opportunities for improvement," says Day. "Staff have come up with a lot of ideas to make their jobs easier." For example, a label printer was moved to the Emergency Department's "Mini-Reg" workstation after staff explained it would save time and allow them to provide better service.
Day makes a point of acting on these suggestions. "I find that no matter what type of problem it is, if staff bring up something once, they feel they have met their obligation," she says. "If you don't fix it, they may never bring it up again."
If a suggestion isn't going to be possible, Day says so upfront. "It may be that staff might want to collect a copay in the emergency department before the patient sees the physician, which is against regulatory requirements," she notes. "So it is a good opportunity for staff education as well."
Day comes to the meetings with targeted questions, in the event staff aren't forthcoming with comments. "If everybody's being very quiet, I might say, 'We put up a new imaging system last month. How is that going?' Also, I try to start each meeting on a positive note."
Day asks employees, "What is the most positive thing going on with your job right now?" "It is nice to be able to go back to their supervisors and share that staff feel something is working well," she says. "At times, it feels like you're only handling problems. Everyone appreciates positive feedback."
Almost without exception, says Day, staff enjoy being asked for their opinion. "I often get e-mails thanking me for taking the time to meet with them," she says. "Any time you are committing an hour of your time just to find out what someone's opinion is, I think most employees appreciate that."