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4 Approaches to Promote Customer Satisfaction at ASCs

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Ambulatory surgery centers have two main customers outside of the physicians practicing in the center — referring physicians and patients. Great relationships with both of these customers are crucial to an ASC growing and thriving in any community.

Dustin Hamilton of ZirMed on patient and physician satisfactionDustin Hamilton is the group product manager for ZirMed, a healthcare revenue cycle management and technology provider.

Mr. Hamilton gives his top four suggestions for how ASCs can put the customers first and improve satisfaction, thus improving their business operations.

1. Communicate effectively.
The healthcare industry, and ambulatory surgery centers in particular, will evolve into more of a retail service where patients can shop around for prices and quality providers, Mr. Hamilton says. This reality may be several years off, but ASCs should always strive for high quality customer service.

Begin with treating the physicians well so they will look to your center for referrals. "When a provider is looking to refer out or suggest a surgery center, they will want what's easier for them and best for the patient," he says. Secure electronic communication with both providers and patients is a must.

"How do you communicate with patients?" Mr. Hamilton says. "We all expect to do everything on the Internet. With the advent of a patient portal, patients can now communicate with the provider and the ASC. Centers can give them instructions they need to know, such as pre-operative information and when to arrive the day of surgery."

ASCs need to take advantage of every interaction with the patient, including through public presences, advertisements and social media. Social media has made it so customer experiences travel further than ever before. A negative experience will often travel further than a positive one, so go out of your way to take care of patients inside and outside of the operating room, he says.

2. Aim for price and policy transparency.
Healthcare is no different than other industries in terms of the customer's desire for transparency. "The more transparent a product, the more likely an educated consumer will go toward that product," Mr. Hamilton says. "Product transparency wins."

He sees greater pricing availability as the future of surgery center business. ASCs should expect patients to begin calling to get procedure cost estimates, and centers will need tools or methodologies to help predict costs. In the meantime, staff members can sit down with patients to help them understand their insurance policies and how those policies apply to the procedure at hand.

Centers should also strive to be straightforward about all payment policies. Hanging a sign at the front desk with information about patient payment responsibility can help put both the patient and the staff member at ease.

3. Respond quickly to referrals.
To further build relationships with referring providers, surgery centers need to react in the timeliest manner to physician office inquiries. Your ASC cannot afford to lose faxes or respond to missed phone calls a week later, he says.

"You need visibility into how well you're serving your customers," Mr. Hamilton says. "The provider and the patient together are the customer of an ASC. Make sure they have the best experience possible."

Providers are using their administrative expenses to send business to your surgery center, so work to cultivate positive relationships that are beneficial for both parties.

4. Be up front with collections. As insurance plan deductibles continue to increase, patients will be left with high out-of-pocket costs for their surgical procedures. Talking to patients about costs from the start is the best way to mitigate your center's risk, strive for full collections and satisfy customers with the billing experience.

Staff members are often uncomfortable discussing money, but this process and perception needs to shift, Mr. Hamilton says. He implores surgery center administrators to educate the front desk personnel on how to ask for patients' payments prior to services rendered.

"Get comfortable asking for the patient portion up front," he says. "The likelihood of collecting is greater up front. Even with the patient is leaving the office and the statement is mailed, the percent of collection goes down."

Administrators should work with front desk workers to use nonthreatening statements, such as, "How would you like to pay today?" Working with patients prior to surgery will also make the patient more comfortable when it comes time to pay the bill.

"If a patient can create a payment plan or pay up-front, then they can make better decisions from a patient responsibility risk standpoint," Mr. Hamilton says.

More Articles on Coding, Billing and Collections:
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Outdated Communication Technology Costs Healthcare $5.2B Annually
ICD-10 Training Needs to be Flexible to Engage Physicians






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