Simple ways registrars can satisfy patients

Make a connection

Patients at the Women's Hospital of Greensboro (NC) might have multiple visits during their pregnancies, which allows registrars to create an ongoing relationship, says Donald B. Conrad, patient access supervisor.

"Patients and families have long memories when it comes to remembering staff who treated them well and those who did not," says Conrad. "The initial impressions we give the patient last for years afterward."

Conrad says that access staff must "be very sensitive" to the reason the patient is presenting to the hospital. "We have asked staff to 'engage' the patient," he says. "By 'engaging,' we mean finding something in common with the patient, going beyond normal expectations and making them feel that they are very special."

Empathy for the patient and the families creates a special bond that affect the rest of their visits, says Conrad. Each week, he reviews the actual written patient surveys to determine trends and put the individual patient's experience into context. "This determines which areas need to applauded and which need extra attention," says Conrad. "We have found invaluable advice from our patients in their written words."

Listen closely

Patients are understandably dissatisfied if they aren't given the full attention of staff, says Patti Burchett, director of registration and central scheduling at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI. "If staff are talking with other co-workers, or permitted to text and e-mail in patient areas, they aren't able to listen closely to the patient and answer their questions," she says.

In general, says Burchett, it's very easy for staff to "become lost in the 'busyness' and business of patient access."

Registrars must be diligent about patient throughput, comply with rules and regulations, accurately obtain and enter patient data, and make sure all forms are signed and co-pays are paid. "Those things all must be done," says Burchett. "What makes the difference is doing those tasks within a culture of patient and family-centered care."

Burchett emphasizes the importance of non-verbal communication techniques, such as smiling and making eye contact. "We always address patients by their names and give them our full attention," she says. "Staff diffuse high emotions with scripting such as, 'Sounds like it has been a rough experience,' or 'I can see we haven't met your needs.'"

Staff begin conversations with "Good morning" or "Good afternoon," and end with, "Is there anything else I can do you?" "Conversations don't need to be long," says Burchett. "A few words that identify and validate the patient's feelings are all that are necessary."

If registrars know a patient likes to sit in a recliner and be left alone with periodic checks or likes to engage in conversation, he or she passes on that information to the next shift, says Betty Bopst, director of patient access at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. Bopst cautions her staff to avoid an "assembly line" impression.

"Registrars think in terms of speed. It takes a special kind of person to have the ability to keep the work going, while making time for a little chitchat with a patient," she says.

Sources

• Betty Bopst, Director of Patient Access, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, MD. Phone: (410) 332-9390. E-mail: bbopst@mdmercy.com.

• Patti Burchett, Director, Registration and Central Scheduling, Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo, MI. Phone: (269) 341-6370. Fax: (269) 341.6648. E-mail: burchetp@bronsonhg.org.

• Donald B. Conrad, Supervisor, Patient Access, The Women's Hospital of Greensboro, NC. Phone: (336) 832-6619. Fax: (336) 832-4114. E-mail: don.conrad@conehealth.com.