How was service? Ask patients directly
Call monitoring and secret shoppers are effective
At Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, patient access managers interview 15 patients each month.
"In some cases, patients are approached after they check in and asked if they’d be willing to answer a few questions about the customer service they received," says Helen Contreraz, director of patient access services.
Other times, charge nurses recommend a few patients for the patient access manager to interview. "Sometimes they’ll recommend a patient who is problematic. Often, we can take away a lot of information from that," says Contreraz.
One patient was upset because his observation of a religious holiday wasn’t acknowledged by clinicians. However, the underlying problem was traced back to the fact that patient access didn’t identify his spiritual affiliation at the point of registration.
Patients are asked these questions about their registration experience:
• Were you greeted with respect?
• Did the registrar introduce themselves?
• Did the registrar explain what was going to happen next?
• Did we provide you with an exit that was courteous?
• Were all your questions answered?
Here are other ways to assess customer service provided in patient access areas:
• Perform monthly call reviews.
Jennifer D. Martin, patient access manager at UK Healthcare in Lexington, KY, says, "We select random calls for each agent. We utilize a call evaluation survey as an assessment tool."
This system allows managers to measure each employee’s strengths and weakness during the phone call interaction. "Patient access managers work with frontline supervisors to provide feedback and recognition to each patient access employee," she says.
The call reviews also allow managers to assess and identify communication breakdowns or barriers to the scheduling process. "This will allow opportunity to collaborate with our clinical teams to update scheduling protocols or streamline the scheduling process," says Martin.
A monthly call review session is held with each employee. The employee and management team listen as a group to the recorded phone call interaction, using a call evaluation form that scores how the caller was greeted, timeliness, customer service, and how the call was ended.
"If managers determine an area in which employee could be struggling, the team provides additional training or ideas to ensure the employee meets the expectations," says Martin.
• Use secret shoppers.
Rebecca Holman, CHAM, patient access manager at Mercy Hospital Springfield (MO), occasionally uses "secret shoppers" to observe customer service provided by staff. "One of the things they observed was our receptionist not making immediate eye contact with the visitor," says Holman.
The secret shoppers are one of the best ways to assess a department’s level of customer service, as long as they are unbiased without pre-conceived opinions, she says. "I have used personal friends who are not patients and gave them brief instructions on what to look for," says Holman. The secret shoppers checked that employees immediately acknowledged visitors approaching the desk, made eye contact, smiled, used a pleasant tone of voice, and spoke clearly.
Holman has also used peers in management positions that patient access employees aren’t acquainted with. "The best secret shoppers are our administrative executives that come in for services," she says. "They are sure to tell us if there is something that needs attention."