Volunteers Can Improve Efficiency And Patient Satisfaction In Registration Areas. Patient Access Leaders Are Using Volunteers To Do The Following:
walk patients to their next destination;
give directions to lost or confused patients or family;
Use pet therapy to alleviate anxiety.
After patients checked in at the outpatient registration area at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, they were given a simple instruction: “Have a seat across the hall.”
However, many patients still felt confused on exactly where to go in the high-traffic area.
“In order to facilitate a private interview with a registrar, patients are directed to another waiting area, where they are called for registration by the next available registrar,” explains June Parks, patient access supervisor of outpatient registration.
Now a friendly face, one of six volunteers assigned to outpatient registration, is waiting to escort them. “A patient may not know the routine,” says Parks. “Our volunteer cuts down on any confusion a patient may experience, taking our customer service to the next level.”
The volunteers, all high school or college students, walk the patient across the hall and direct them to a seat, stating, “A registrar will be with you momentarily to get you registered.”
“If they see a patient struggling with bags, they offer to help, or if the patient is thirsty, they get them water,” says Parks. “They just look out for the patient and make the process as smooth as possible.”
Here are other ways volunteers are used in patient access areas of the hospital:
Volunteers can give directions.
At Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, patients and visitors often get lost looking for a doctor’s office or hospital department.
“Our volunteers are advised to offer assistance to patients and visitors who look lost or confused about their location,” says Parks. “They are always there with a smile.”
Volunteers are stationed at a central area between the check-in area and the high-traffic hallway. They wear green shirts identifying them as Jefferson Volunteers. “This way they are visible, allowing our patients and visitors to ask for direction and assistance,” says Parks.
Volunteers can provide pet therapy.
At Orlando (FL) Health, registered therapy dogs and their handlers frequently visit registration areas and various waiting rooms.
“This can be an anxious time for patients and family members. Our pet therapy teams light up the room and bring smiles to many faces,” says Amy Flom, program coordinator for the hospital’s PetSmart Paws for Hope Pet Therapy Program.
Visiting with a therapy dog for a few minutes helps many patients to relax and engage in conversation. “They enjoy a distraction from their hospital issues and, in general, feel more positive,” says Flom.
Volunteers can help out when departments are short-staffed.
Only one registrar works in the outpatient registration department on Saturdays at Cape Coral (FL) Hospital. However, volunteers are there to help by performing simple clerical tasks such as filing, labeling, and preparing charts, as well as keeping the waiting room tidy.
“This frees up registrars to tackle more important tasks,” says Jill Andreasen, CHAM, director of registration and patient business services.
Volunteers can alleviate patients’ anxiety.
Volunteers are stationed at Cape Coral’s emergency department entrance to give everyone a warm, friendly greeting. “This ensures that people presenting for care are identified immediately,” says Andreasen.
A patient might be checking with the ED registrar at the arrival desk while other patients walk in and wait to check in. “Having the volunteer stationed at the emergency entrance as potential patients walk in identifies serious conditions immediately, if the registrar is busy speaking with another patient,” Andreason explains.
Volunteers also escort patients and visitors to the cafeteria, restrooms, the main lobby, or elevators to inpatient floors. “Oftentimes people entering a hospital are scared and can easily get lost,” says Andreason. “Offering some kind words paves the way for a good experience.”
Jill Andreasen, CHAM, Director, Registration and Patient Business Services, Cape Coral (FL) Hospital. Phone: (239) 424-3300. Fax: (239) 424-4053. Email: [email protected].
June Parks, Patient Access Supervisor, Outpatient Registration, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA. Phone: (215) 503-0050. Fax: (215) 923-9458. Email: [email protected].