Staff attitude key to patient satisfaction

Surgery center focuses on its culture

Two recent awards obtained by Siouxland Surgery Center in Dakota Dunes, SD, show this specialty hospital is on the right track with patient satisfaction.

In September 2011, WomenCertified, a referral source for businesses and brands women recommend, named the center among the Top 100 Hospitals for Patient Experience based on female patient satisfaction. In November 2011, the institution received a Summit Award from Press Ganey. Winners of this award must be ranked in the 95th percentile or above for patient satisfaction for a minimum of three consecutive years.

There are many reasons for the high level of patient satisfaction at Siouxland Surgery Center, where about 65% of the surgeries are same day. Results from several evaluation tools, including the Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys, routinely are reviewed by staff to determine if changes need to be made in order to ensure that patients consistently have the best experience possible, says Greg Miner, CEO of Siouxland Surgery Center. The culture of an institution is the basis for the care provided patients, which results in high satisfaction scores, and at Siouxland Surgery Center, staff members are honored to take care of patients and their families, Miner says.

"Culture is something that cannot be measured or scored," he says. "It oftentimes is unexplainable, but culture always begins at the top. It starts with leadership and transfers down to management and the employees."

The reason most individuals chose healthcare as their profession is that somewhere in their lifetime, a "calling" similar to the clergy takes place, Miner says. "We try to make sure everyone that works at Siouxland Surgery Center has had that calling," he says.

Staff vested in success

Nursing staff were attracted to the institution because they could participate in a patient-centric surgically oriented experience, says Ralph Reeder, MD, president of Siouxland Surgery Center.

This culture is supported by administrators in several ways, according to Reeder. It includes the following:

  • Staff freely discusses with physicians what job barriers they experience, what areas they would like to improve, or how to make positive changes. Physicians take these suggestions to management, and staff members see they individually matter.
  • Staff has a yearly bonus linked to the financial performance of the institution that is a sizable part of their income; therefore, they are vested in the success of the surgery center.
  • The surgery center has established an internal staff "university" whose job it is to teach and perpetuate the values, competencies, and expectations of the founding members.

"While a good culture can 'just happen,' a great culture needs tending in order to last," says Reeder. (For advice on steps to take if you are struggling with low patient satisfaction, see below.)

The early physician owners made sure patient flow was designed to eliminate any frustrating impediments to the doctor while providing the patient with a home-like, non-institutional environment.

Physicians are assisted in many ways. For example, computer stations with remote access to each physician's office server are provided at the front OR desk. Following surgery, a family consultation room is immediately available in proximity to the OR front desk. Staff members place a note on the physician's entry door identifying the names of the people in the room and their relationship to the patient.

"In short, our institution has always treated our physicians as a valued customer, understanding that a happy doctor, more likely than not, leads to happy patients," says Reeder.

Steps for improving patient satisfaction

Canvas, motivate, educate, and reward staff

Is your institution struggling with low patient satisfaction? Ralph Reeder, MD, president of Siouxland Surgery Center, which won a Press Ganey Summit Award for high scores in patient satisfaction, offers the following suggestions:

  • Understand the motivation of your physician staff. Determine their financial, clinical, and experiential priorities. If they are not patient-centric, work to understand why not, and then seek their alignment to the clearly established values your institution wants to project and provide.
  • Canvas your staff to understand their feelings about patient care and how they feel about the doctors and administration for whom they work. You will need their brutal honesty.
  • Establish a core staff group of actual care providers who intrinsically has your desired cultural competencies. Give them the task of educating and rewarding others that emulate their example.
  • Reward success generously.