Patient access departments are boosting satisfaction by finding simple ways to give patients a personal connection during registration.
• Give patients a card letting them know whom to contact about their registration experience.
• Greet patients by name in waiting areas.
• Have The Same Registrar Do Pre-registration And Bedside Registration.
When it comes to satisfaction in registration areas, patient access departments are finding out it’s the little things that count.
“Customer service is all about ‘wowing’ patients,” says Guillermo Sanabia, MBA, CHAM, LSSYB, director of patient access services at WellStar Paulding Hospital in Hiram, GA. “The representative is taking ownership and accountability for that particular patient’s well-being.”
The simple act of calling a patient by name, for example, makes a strong, positive impression. “It begins our relationship for that particular encounter,” says Sanabia. “It makes it easier to have financial conversations as well.”
At CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln, NE, registrars in admissions, the emergency department (ED), and labor and delivery now hand patients a registration card. The card lists the name of the person who registered them and phone numbers to call for assistance with billing questions.
“By doing this, we are defining our role in the course of their visit, plus we get to provide a great first impression,” says Angela Small, CRCR, patient access supervisor in the emergency department.
The card includes a number to report any problems that occurred during the registration, but some patients offer praise instead. “We have had patients write on the card how great of a job their patient access registrar did,” says Small. Shortly after the cards were introduced, satisfaction scores, currently at 74%, rose by 12%.
Contact info into hands
At Arnold Palmer Medical Center in Orlando, all registration areas give customer service cards to patients to assist with questions that might come up later or when the bill arrives.
“Our ER patients often arrive without their insurance cards or wallets. The card gives them a specific callback number to provide that information later when they are home and settled,” says patient access manager Mary Ellen Daley, MHA, CHAM, CRCR. Inpatient and short-stay surgery patients also receive contact information for physician providers who might be involved in their follow-up care, such as an anesthesiologist or pathologist.
“Many of the calls that come to me are patients providing insurance information or requesting to make payment arrangements,” says Daley. “We use Press Ganey [a South Bend, IN-based provider of patient experience measurement] and ended our second quarter at 93.1%.”
The card includes contact information for the team member who registered them and collected their personal and insurance information, and also the patient access manager’s contact information. “There is a positive impact on accountability,” says Daley. “We are really training on ‘ownership,’ going the extra mile to ensure we meet the needs of the patient.”
Patients who call Daley directly often compliment the service they received from the specific individual who assisted them. “I also hear positive comments about our practice of providing bedside registration and assisting with paperwork while we are in the room,” she says.
This process also can be a source of negative comments, however, because patient access doesn’t have mobile technology. Staff members take the patients’ insurance cards and identification to a central area for scanning. “But I’m happy to say we will soon have the technology that will allow us to truly complete our work at the bedside,” says Daley. [The customer service cards used by both departments are included with the online issue. For assistance, contact customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 688-2421.]
Approach them directly
To give patients a personal connection in outpatient and imaging registration areas, Sanabia borrowed an idea from the hospitality industry.
“When you pull up to any nice hotel and the valet asks for your name, you don’t realize that the valet is actually communicating with the front desk so they can pull up your reservation,” says Sanabia. Employees at WellStar’s check-in desk do something similar, by entering visual clues into the system such as “striped shirt, glasses, purple tie.” This system allows registrars and technicians to easily spot the patient they are looking for.
“Instead of yelling out a name, they approach that person and call them by name,” Sanabia says. This instantly gives patients a personalized, welcoming feeling.
“We changed the patient experience. We shifted from the patient saying, ‘I’m here for a test. Can you find me in the system?’ to us saying, ‘We were expecting you. Thank you for coming,’” he says. Satisfaction scores are at 93% in outpatient areas and 98% in surgical areas.
Prevent survey confusion
A standardized Press Ganey survey, used to assess satisfaction in WellStar’s surgical registration areas, asks, “How satisfied are you with the information you received prior to service?” Some patients didn’t connect this question with the registration process. Comments sometimes referred to communication problems the patient had encountered in clinical areas.
“Instead of saying ‘It doesn’t belong to us, I’m not sure why it’s in the Patient Access Services section,’ we have influenced the patient’s perception of the question,” Sanabia says. “We married our preservices and registration processes.”
If possible, the same person who calls the patient to verify benefits also does the registration at the bedside. That registrar says to the patient, “I don’t know if you remember, but my name is ___, and I did your pre-registration over the phone.” If the registrar wasn’t the same person who did the pre-registration call, he or she says, “I see that ___ did your pre-registration, and she does great work.”
The comments give the patients a good feeling about the pre-registration process and the person who handled the call, and they help the patients to understand what the survey question on “information received prior to service” means. “It also gives the patient a personal connection,” says Sanabia. (See related story on improving satisfaction with emergency department bedside registration in this issue.)
- Angela Small, CRCR, Emergency Room Supervisor, Patient Access, CHI Health St. Elizabeth, Lincoln, NE. Phone: (402) 219-7176. Email: email@example.com.
- Mary Ellen Daley, MHA, CHAM, CRCR, Manager, Patient Access, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Orlando, FL. Phone: (321) 841-1576. Email: Maryellen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Guillermo Sanabia, MBA, CHAM, LSSYB, Director, Patient Access Services, WellStar Paulding Hospital, Hiram, GA. Phone: (470) 644-7039. Email: Guillermo.Sanabia@wellstar.org.