To assess “engaged” employees — those who are enthusiastic and involved with their work — patient access leaders use informal conversations in addition to survey scores. Some approaches include the following:
- Ask specific questions when meeting face-to-face with registrars.
- Observe whether employees offer solutions or participate in initiatives.
- Always follow up with reported concerns, even if the answer is no.
At Boston-based Tufts Medical Center, an organization-wide survey on employee engagement is conducted every three years. The information assesses how enthusiastic and involved people are with their jobs, but its usefulness to patient access leaders is somewhat limited.
“It gives us concrete numbers, which I do find very helpful. But it’s a depiction of that immediate point in time. It doesn’t tell me much about overall satisfaction,” says Denison Clark Penney, director of patient access.
Mere survey percentages didn’t give Penney the in-depth, nuanced information she needed. She decided to email a survey after each staff meeting with a few questions, such as “Do you feel confident in your leadership team?”
“But the results weren’t really telling me anything,” Penney says. “No one submitted any comments.” The response rate, which was only five or 10 responses out of 65 employees, also was disappointing.
Penney decided to take a different approach and talk face-to-face with registrars. “I found this was much more valuable,” she says. Penney recently reviewed these six questions informally during a 15-minute conversation with each employee:
- What motivates you?
- Why are you here at Tufts Medical Center?
- What makes your job challenging?
- What makes your job easy?
- How do you like to receive recognition?
- Do you understand why your role is important to the organization?
One registrar complained about being short-staffed because three employees were out due to family and personal issues. Because Penney knew it would take a long time for new registrars to be hired, she informed the staff that she was hiring seven per diems in the meantime. To alleviate concerns about workload, she instructed staff to make sure the most important cases were prioritized.
“The big thing is to know their concerns are being heard and action is being taken,” she says.
To learn how engaged registrars are, Kevin Pawl, MS, CMPE, director of patient access at Boston Children’s Hospital, takes note of these items:
- whether they’re participating in hospital-wide initiatives or meetings;
- whether they offer solutions to departmental problems;
- whether they offer to take on projects.
Some registrars recently attended Lean Six Sigma training, for example. “We needed help with staff making appointments after-hours for a system conversion,” says Pawl. “I was impressed at the number of folks that stepped up to assist.”
Pawl often asks staff members for their opinions of what the organization should consider stopping, starting, and continuing. “These questions can be very revealing,” says Pawl. “This really holds the mirror up for us to see how we are doing.”
Pawl has learned to look a little deeper at survey results. One survey indicated that most staff members found great satisfaction in their work and a connection with the organization’s overarching mission. “But they also indicated that they may be leaving the organization within one to two years,” says Pawl. This trend begged the question, “Why would staff members leave if they’re satisfied?” When managers asked employees this question, several reported pursuing advanced degrees. “Many build a career in healthcare that begins at the front desk, on the phones, or in a registration role,” says Pawl.
Working with human resources, patient access leaders crafted new job descriptions, job titles, and career ladders. The compensation department did an analysis of salaries for patient access employees who check in patients, register patients, and schedule appointments by phone. “This resulted in a market adjustment for several front-line roles,” says Pawl.
Stephanie Colwell, MBA, CHAA, patient access manager at South Seminole Hospital in Longwood, FL, uses an annual team member survey to determine the engagement of employees. “We use this data to develop action plans, with the team’s input, to make the changes they want to see,” says Colwell. (See related story later in this issue on improving engagement of patient access employees.)
- Stephanie Colwell, MBA, CHAA, Manager, Patient Access, South Seminole Hospital, Longwood, FL. Email: Stephanie.Colwell@orlandohealth.com.
- Kevin J. Pawl, MS, CMPE, Director of Patient Access, Boston Children’s Hospital. Email: Kevin.Pawl@childrens.harvard.edu.
- Denison Clark Penney, Director of Patient Access, Tufts Medical Center, Boston. Phone: (617) 636-7868. Fax: (617) 363-6041.