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5 ASC Leaders on How They Improve the Patient Experience

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employeesHere are five ambulatory surgery center leaders discussing initiatives to improve the patient experience at their centers.

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1. Karen Reiter, Administrator at DISC Sports & Spine Center in Marina del Rey, Calif:
Allow family in the pre-op area. DISC admits as many patients as they can into private rooms. If the patient approves, the facility allows family members to accompany them to the pre-op room. The family members help keep patients relaxed and are an asset when colleting an accurate history.

"I let the family come back for the admitting process because they want to feel part of the process," says Ms. Reiter. "Patients really like that and it makes the ASC experience better. When the family members come into the room they get a very in-depth discharge education before surgery, which we repeat afterwards as well."

When the patient leaves for surgery, a nurse always walks family members back to the waiting room and makes sure they know where to get coffee or breakfast while they wait. DISC encourages feedback on the patient experience and Ms. Reiter sends a "Thank You" note and $5 coffee card to patients who suggest an update that is implemented at the center. She also sends personal messages to patients who have complaints about the center, thanking them for their feedback.

2. Todd Currier, Administrator at Northern Wyoming Surgical Center in Cody: Provide "care bags" to patients and families with extended wait time.
Mr. Currier says his ASC occasionally receives comments concerning extended waiting times for those days when procedures run long.

"[We implemented] a procedure whereby we provide those patients and patients' families that are experiencing excessive wait times a care bag that includes some local treats, coffee card, and other small items (gum, candy, fruit, etc.)," he says. "The size/amount is not as important as the gesture that we care and realize that they are experiencing an extended wait time and we want them to be as comfortable as possible and lessen any built up anxiety."

3. Regina Robinson, Director at Peninsula Surgery Center in Newport News, Va.:
Encourage more interaction by anesthesiologists. Ms. Robinson says Peninsula Surgery Center works to encourage more interaction by anesthesiologists with patients.

"We have them get the patient to sign the anesthesia consent, which ensures they are visible in the pre-op area so the patients get to speak with them personally and ask any questions," she says. "Anesthesia also makes post-op phone calls the next day and the patients have commented on how they love hearing from them."

4. Linda Ruterbories, ASC Director at OA Centers for Orthopedics, Portland, Maine:
Improve employee culture. One of the hot topics among ASC leaders today is employee culture. A positive patient experience is essential moving toward more consumer-driven healthcare, and cooperative staff members will enhance patient experience tremendously.

"You need to work on staff culture so the patients recognize staff members are happy in the workplace," says Ms. Ruterbories. "When a healthcare provider's attitude is such that they are smiling, even though patients are lying in bed in the recovery room, they notice how our staff members act."

Ms. Ruterbories holds staff meetings every two weeks to help build their team. "The team members are stepping up and presenting about what 'team concept' means to them," she says. "They talk about what they find value in as a team member and share that with the group."

5. Kelly Durian, Executive Director at Iowa City Ambulatory Surgery Center:
Keep patients informed on late starts. Some late starts are inevitable, but patients should be kept in the loop about them. When the center is behind schedule, make sure patients are updated frequently. "We have found that it helps just to communicate this to the patient and their family and give them the reason for the delay," Mr. Durian says. "It also helps to let them know when the case is expected to begin."

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