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Ranking 95th percentile in patient satisfaction
Hamilton Ambulatory Surgery Center in Dalton, GA, has received the Summit Award from Press Ganey Associates for the fourth year in a row. The award recognizes health care facilities that rank in the 95th percentile or higher in patient satisfaction for three or more consecutive years, which means that Hamilton has achieved those scores for seven straight years.
The center's patient satisfaction scores range from the 95.6 percentile to the 98.1 percentile, says Kristi House, RN, BSN, director of the center.
Achieving such consistent scores starts with the design of the center, House says. From its beginning, the center was created to present a warm, comfortable setting, she says. "We're trying to help with anxiety and stress," House says.
The design includes comfortable furniture, "warm" colors such as olive green, and a large family waiting area, she says. "We let the family get involved in the process as much as possible, up to the point of going to the OR, basically," House says.
Additionally, when patients are discharged and receive their instructions, they also receive a letter asking them to complete a survey, she says. "It has my number on it, and if they have any problem, they can call," House says. Including a self-addressed stamped envelope has helped boost the response rate to 42%, she says.
In addition to the questions compiled by Press Ganey, the center's administrators have added a couple, House says. One area added was waiting time and delays, because patients can become dissatisfied easily in those areas, she says. Patients are asked, "Were you given information about why delays are occurring?" and "Were you updated throughout the process?" Also, the center asks about IV sticks, which are a source of patient anxiety, House says. Patients are asked, "Do you think your nurse was skilled?"
By addressing these areas, "I think we've added some comfort through [addressing responses to] the questions about the process," House says.
Members of the surgery center staff also make follow-up calls the day after surgery to assess how patients are doing and to see if they were satisfied with their experience at the center.
Every member of the staff is committed to the patient care experience from registration to physicians to administration, House says. "We listen, respond, and respect the patient's needs," she says.
Some of the strongest positive patient reactions are to the billing department, with the center sometimes receiving cards and letters mentioning the positive experience with that area, House says. "It's weird when someone mentions a billing person by name," she says. "You don't get that often" in medical care, House says.
The reason for the positive feedback? When a patient hasn't made a payment in 45 days, staff members make an attempt to contact them before taking any action to turn over the account to collections, House says. The result is that the center receives more payment, she says. Also, depending on the type of payment, some patients are offered discounts for timely payments, House says.
It all starts with a happy staff
Another sure way to keep patients happy: Keep your staff happy, House says.
"Of course if they're happy, they do a better job of caring for patients," she says.
At Hamilton ASC, the lounge/break area is not separated for physicians, she says. "We all congregate in the same area," House says. "They listen to opinions from staff about things that will work better. It's very open." Managers also solicit opinions from staff on improving patient care and staff morale, she says.
Staff members who go beyond their normal job duties are recognized with a "whatever it takes" card. Recipients of the card can be nominated by other staff members, physicians, or managers, House says. Also, staff members who are mentioned by name in positive comments from patients are recognized with the cards, she says. "It encourages them to go out of their way to be kind to all our patients," House says.
The cards offer a reward of a meal from the hospital cafeteria, a movie ticket, or a gift certificate to the gift shop, she says. It's important that "they have some value to them," House says.
Also, interdepartmental relationships are fostered through an ongoing game at the center, she says. A box in the lounge posts questions, and staff must find answers by talking to people in other departments, House says. For example, the question "What do the colored letters on the patient file stand for?" might send staff to the business office to get an answer. "It helps them understand what others' jobs are," she says. Staff members who compile all of the correct answers receive a reward comparable to the "whatever it takes" cards, House says.
The center's administrators also plan a group outing once or twice a year, she says. Recently, staff attended a minor league ball game on a weekend, and family members were invited, House says. "I think that helps with morale here," she says.
Despite their success with patient and staff satisfaction, the center isn't stopping its efforts to improve. Press Ganey provided an analysis of the areas of greatest increases and decreases. "We look at areas we need to maybe improve on," House says.
The administrators take the patient satisfaction scores and discuss them at staff meetings, along with patient comments. "We say, 'This is the way we're being viewed,'" House says.
The administrators and staff are always looking to improve, she says. "Even though we won [Press Ganey recognition] four times, we want to meet and exceed that level if we can," House says. "We don't want to get complacent with it."