Make it a top priority: single service changes

Simple changes impress patients

For one month, patient access leaders at Witham Health Services in Lebanon, IN, targeted one simple but important change to improve the level of customer service given by registrars.

“We focused on registrars saying the patient’s name at least twice during the encounter,” reports Tonya Hart, manager of patient admission services.

All employees were given customer service training using the Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, and Thank You (AIDET) process a year ago, but the patient access services department has “taken it steps further,” says Hart. These are other changes that were made:

• Staff thank the patient or family for something during every registration.

Staff might say, “Thank you for your patience,” “Thank you for your understanding,” “Thank you for your time,” or “Thank you for choosing to come to Witham today.”

When Hart asked her registrars to do this step, she told them, “I have confidence that each of you can do this. Like Santa, we will be watching and listening. And, if you are sincere when you say it, it won’t sound hokey.”

• Registrars say something positive about the department the patient is going to.

“Whether it is radiology, lab, or ACS [Ambulatory Care Services], staff let the patients and their families know they are in good hands,” says Hart. Registrars might tell a patient, “Kevin will be your technician today. He has over 15 years experience,” “The phlebotomists here are great,” or “Our nurses in Ambulatory Care Services will take excellent care of you today.”

• Staff give patients and families approximate wait times.

Registrars tell the patient that if they have waited more than 10 minutes without being seen by the lab or radiology technician, please let them or someone at the front desk know.

“This is especially important at main registration and radiology,” says Hart. “Of course, if the patient is a half hour early for their procedure, we remind them of their appointment time and again, explain the wait time.”

This approach has allowed the department to meet its current goal of a minimum score of 95 for two questions in the Registration Section for Outpatients of the organization’s Press Ganey survey: Helpfulness of registration person and ease of registration process.

Members of the registration staff hand out customer service cards to all lab and radiology patients, which prompts patients to “talk up” those departments or technicians, says Hart. “The cards explain that the patient could receive a Press Ganey survey and we strive for excellence on the surveys, and if they cannot score us that way to let us know,” she says.

Registrars write in their own names and the technician or phlebotomist’s name when they hand the patient the card. “We have seen an increase in our staff’s names being specifically mentioned in the comment sections of the survey,” reports Hart. “The lab and radiology departments’ Press Ganey scores have also increased.”


For more information on customer service in patient access areas, contact:

Tonya Hart, Manager, Patient Admission Services, Witham Health Services, Lebanon, IN. Phone: (765) 485-8194. Fax: (765) 485-8118. Email: