See service skills of staff firsthand
Rounding is `priceless’ opportunity for access
"Priceless" is the word that Helen Contreraz, director of patient access services at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, uses to describe the results of rounding.
All patient access employees are trained in the organization’s "C-ICARE" (Connect/Introduce/Communicate/Ask/Respond/Exit) principles. These principles are a focus during rounding, which is done by managers three times a month in various areas.
"We ask the staff what can we improve on and also what they think our staff needs to improve on," says Contreraz. Patient access managers ask these questions:
• What do you value most about your role?
• Are any barriers keeping you from achieving your best?
• Is there anything you have personally done that you would consider to be a best practice in your area?
• How do you think you help achieve the "C-ICARE" vision?
Sometimes, Contreraz learns about a problem in another area of the hospital that is affecting patient access. Recently, staff members reported during rounding that some patients were dissatisfied due to problems with parking. "The kiosks weren’t opening early enough for the first morning cases, and delays were occurring," says Contreraz. "We coordinated with parking, and we direct patients either to the valets or the adjacent parking structure."
Here are other ways the department improves customer service:
• Patient access employees are encouraged to help their peers improve the service provided to patients.
Occasionally, something that happened at home or at work is affecting the customer service provided by a patient access employee. If so, employees remind their colleague to "leave your baggage at the door," says Contreraz. "If someone is caught having one of those baggage’ days, we give them a gentle reminder of why we’re here."
• Managers observe patient access areas three times each week.
"We look at how staff are answering the phone and how they are interacting with patients and each other," she says.
Occasionally, Contreraz notices that staff members are busy multitasking and forget to look up from their screen when interacting with a patient. "If someone never takes their eyes from computer, you don’t feel acknowledged," she says.
• Staff greet patients by name and say, "We’ve been expecting you."
Patients often arrive agitated, due to getting stuck in traffic, getting lost, or simply trying to figure out how to navigate the hospital building. By telling patients they were expected, says Contreraz, "this reassures patients that You’re in the right place, and we’re going to take care of you.’"
• If there is a wait, patients are given a pager so they can leave the registration area for a few minutes.
"Sometimes everybody seems to get here at the same time. With the pager, patients don’t have to worry, Did they forget about me?’ They can go for a walk or go to the cafeteria," says Contreraz.
Reward staff for compliments
Patient access areas at Mercy Hospital Springfield (MO) use a "Going the Extra Mile" (GEM) Program to acknowledge excellent customer service. (See program description, p. 91.) "We have cards that patients or coworkers can fill out to compliment or acknowledge a coworker for outstanding service," says patient access manager Rebecca Holman, CHAM. "These are logged and rewarded on a graduating scale."
Employees receive certificates, cafeteria credits, or "Mercy Points," an internal reward system that can be redeemed for merchandise. Based on the level that a registrar achieves, says Holman, a "gem" pin is attached to the name badge. "The pins are purchased at a craft supply store," says Holman. (See related stories on assessing customer service, below right, and setting criteria, p. 92.)
Helen Contreraz, Director, Patient Access Services, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles. Phone: (310) 267-8005. E-mail:
- Rebecca Holman, CHAM, Patient Access Manager, Mercy Hospital, Springfield, MO. Phone: (417) 820-5342. Fax: (417) 820-3465. Email: Rebecca.Holman@Mercy.net.
- Jennifer D. Martin, Patient Access Manager, UK Healthcare Ambulatory Services, Lexington, KY. Phone: (859) 323-3006. Fax: (859) 323-2021. Email: Jdmart3@UKY.edu.