Group of access staff boost patient satisfaction

A small group of patient access employees at St. Anthony Central in Lakewood, CO, participate in the department’s “Unit Base Council” which is charged with coming up with ways to improve customer satisfaction.

“An email was sent out to the patient access team to see who would like to sit on the council,” says Tammy Casados, manager of patient access. The council now has five members from patient access registration, three financial counselors, and one member from central scheduling. Each member was given the book “Coaching for Improved Work Performance: How to Get Better Results from Your Employees” (McGraw-Hill, 2000) to read.

For its first meeting in September 2012, the group assigned the roles of chair, recorder, and facilitator. “At this time, the group is meeting bi-monthly to get established. We will then look at going to once-a-month meetings.” So far, the group has come up with these ideas:

• They decided to have schedulers visit provider’s offices for a “meet and greet.”

The scheduling office already has visited one physician office to review the hospital’s scheduling process and to answer any questions the office staff had, says Casados.

• They started developing a job shadowing program for registration, financial counseling, and scheduling.

“They want each area to know the process of each area’s job responsibilities,” says Casados. For example, a scheduler recently spent some time working with an emergency department (ED) registrar to see how information is collected from the patient and realized how quickly registrars need to complete their work during sudden volume surges. The schedule saw that it wasn’t always possible to collect all the necessary data at the beginning of a registration and that it sometimes takes several attempts to get the account updated, adds Casados.

• They suggested improving the way volunteers are trained.

“We have given them access to our pre-registration and scheduled visit information, which can be run at any time during the day,” says Casados. “With this information, they can send the patient direct to the department of service.”

If volunteers see a patient in a “scheduled” status, they now know the patient needs to go to the patient registration are to check in, for example.

• They agreed to send a survey to other departments to ask for input on how to improve the registration process.

• They decided to add an “after hours” phone for ED registration.

Previously, there was signage instructing patients to call the operator when no volunteer was present in the main lobby, but the council decided it would be more customer-friendly for patients to talk directly with an ED registrar if they needed to check in after hours.

“It was approved to put new signage and an after-hours phone that will go direct to ER registration,” says Casados. “The patient or family can pick up and be connected immediately with our ER registration area for assistance.”