Ensure updates with peer-to-peer training

New hires like the approach

Some patient access leaders are realizing that exemplary staff members can be a major resource for training and education. This could be because staff are more comfortable learning from their colleagues, or because the department is being charged to do "more with less" and more formal training resources are cut. Either way, it can be a successful strategy.

At Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, access employees who consistently provide excellent customer service are chosen to assist with new staff training.

"The peer-to-peer coaching is well received by new hires," says Roxanna DeMoss, director of hospital patient access. "The patient access coaches have great reputations. They are well-respected within the department."

First, new employees complete the three-week corporate patient access training class. Then each new employee is paired with a front-line coach from the specific registration area where he or she will be working.

"Each coach is a peer who will guide the employee through the process flow of the registration site," says Kathy Bowles, who is involved in the patient access peer coaching program at Ohio State's University Hospital and Ross Heart Hospital.

The coach reviews all pertinent materials, observes the employee's techniques, and provides performance feedback in meeting department and hospital standards.

"Peer coaches are a crucial element in assisting new employees with feeling part of the team," says Bowles. "A bond is created from the beginning that encourages trust. It creates an environment where the new employee feels comfortable in asking questions, no matter how minor he or she may think it is."

The coach also takes time to introduce the new employee to others in the team, and includes him or her in the department's pot luck lunches and birthday parties.

"Peer coaches typically excel in the registration process," says Bowles. "They have created their own style that allows them to be themselves, while meeting the expectations and goals of the department."

Since the coaches have an opportunity to consistently observe the new employee, they provide valuable feedback to the supervisors regarding any particular challenges that the new employee may have, she says.

"This allows the supervisor to focus in on these challenges and ensure that all the tools necessary to succeed in the department are available to the new employee," says Bowles. "It is always important to utilize the strong points of each staff member. Because we all have different points of view, everyone has something different to offer the team."

Bowles says that she makes it a point to include staff on process or policy changes. "Since they are on the front lines consistently, they are very familiar with what works and what doesn't," says Bowles. "It is important to consider their perspective when you are striving for success. It is not uncommon for the staff to present an idea that improves or enhances the process flow for the patients as well as the staff."

Goal is to move up

Registration staff who have been identified as a potential coach of customer service skills and registration have a greater likelihood of remaining in patient access, Bowles says.

"These staff are usually super achievers or leaders who excel in their positions and know their jobs quite well," says DeMoss. "We want our staff to be successful in their jobs. We try to provide the resources for them to do just that, and then move up in the organization."

Recently, employees from the patient access registration area were promoted to financial counseling, an area that calls for top-notch customer service skills.

"There will always be those employees who use patient access as a stepping stone to another career path. We take the same care in making sure those folks are trained in the same thorough manner," says DeMoss. "It is our hope they will all fall in love with patient access and want to stay."

[For more information, contact:

Roxanna DeMoss, Director, Hospital Patient Access, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus. Phone: (614) 366-5394. Fax: (614) 293-7337. E-mail: roxanna.demoss@osumc.edu.]