Patients surveyed post-discharge

Service dramatically improved

The patient access department has been the facilitator of discharge calls to emergency department (ED) patients for several years, and customer service has improved dramatically as a result, reports Cynthia Norman-Bey, director of patient access services and the Private Branch Exchange Call Center at Glendale (CA) Adventist Medical Center.

The calls are made within 48 hours after the patient has discharged from the ED, so the experience is still fresh in the patient’s mind. “It is critical for our continued service growth to be in touch with our patients and their families and ask them to share experiences of their encounters at our hospital,” says Norman-Bey.

Feedback is collected each week and distributed to the ED director, nurse managers, ED physician panel, chief operating officer, and the chief nursing officer who meet to discuss/implement improvements if applicable. “Patient access services team members, including the director, conduct calls utilizing a methodology which ensure diversity as it relates to patient demographics, patient financial information if provided, and patient reason for visit,” says Norman-Bey. “Feedback received is representative of all customers.”

Improvements made

In addition, patient access services occasionally conducts telephone surveys for other service areas such as outpatient surgery, radiology, and cardiology.

“If needed, immediate service improvements can be implemented,” says Norman-Bey. “Scripting is used to prompt our team to use key words and phrases that we believe are key to receiving feedback openly and freely.”

After identifying themselves, staff members ask if the patient has time to answer a few questions to assist the hospital with any service improvements that they might recommend. “Our approach is very much that of a requester seeking their valuable input to improve our services,” says Norman-Bey. “This has been very successful for us. We have received feedback from patients and their families that has assisted us with implementing improvements to both service and processes.”

Patients have pointed out a need for better signage on campus, for example. “When that feedback is provided to the senior leadership team, approval is given immediately to improve or increase signage where requested,” says Norman-Bey.

Face-to-face interaction

As a result of doing the surveys, the patient access team now has a better understanding of what patients and their families desire, according to Norman-Bey.

“The ‘aha’ light comes on as to why we do what we do daily, which is to provide access to services at our hospital,” she says.

The patient access services call center staff rarely saw patients as a scheduling and authorization department, but they reported wanting more direct interaction with patients and their families. “In many cases, after speaking to a patient who provided feedback to us, we make a special point of going to meet them when they arrive on our campus for another outpatient appointment,” says Norman-Bey. Registrars then provide the patient with information on services available at the hospital, the department’s contact information, and a hand-written thank you card.

“This type of face-to-face interaction has been beneficial,” says Norman-Bey. “It allows us to maintain positive service relationships that we hope will continue to improve our service reputation.”