Many issues come into play with patient satisfaction. Plenty of these are partly, if not totally, linked to other departments. Wait times, clinical care, cleanliness, and billing processes are just a few.

“All of these integrate with the revenue cycle, often behind the scenes, but sometimes fall outside of our control,” says Melissa Patten, associate vice president of patient access at Northern Light Health in Brewer, ME.

It may be that a patient’s elective surgery was rescheduled because of inclement weather — at great inconvenience to the patient. Another patient may have waited five hours in the ED because multiple trauma victims were brought in after a motor vehicle accident. The patients in those two examples may be very unhappy with their hospital experience, but that does not mean the registrar did not perform his or her job well.

“Revenue cycle functions mix financial components into the clinical experience,” Patten says, noting that both patients from the previous examples, in addition to their other issues, were asked for thousands of dollars by registrars. “There are sensitive conversations happening during times of illness and injury.”

All of this makes it more difficult for registrars to achieve great scores. Consistency can help because people know what to expect. For patient access, says Patten, that means “standardization of workflows and centralization of applicable processes to cater to the knowledge, needs, and preferences of the patients that we serve.” Going forward, patient access leaders at Northern Light Health will be giving patients more choices on communication methods. They also will provide patients with self-scheduling in an ever-evolving attempt to boost satisfaction.

Patten has found that some data are especially helpful in pinpointing trends in patient satisfaction. Such indicators include issues like wait times (both at call centers and onsite), the number of claims denials, “no show” rates, point-of-service collections, accuracy of patient estimates, and staff productivity.

“A combination of metrics highlighting both clinical and financial processes produces a holistic view of the patient’s satisfaction with their experience,” Patten concludes.