5 Initiatives for a Better Patient & Physician ASC ExperienceKaren Reiter, administrator at DISC Sports & Spine Center in Marina del Rey, Calif., discusses five initiatives her surgery center has taken on to improve the patient and physician experience at the ASC.
1. Be efficient. Efficiency is important at the surgery center, so start times and turnover times must be prompt. DISC has its patients ready to go by 7:10 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. start time. "Start time" is when the surgeon makes the first incision, so the first anesthesiologist sees the patient in pre-op 20 prior to the start time, the surgeon signs at 7:15 and then they go straight into the room.
"In our original process, there was less organization and we had to run around to find the transport person or the OR nurse to make sure everything was ready, but now everyone has ownership of their own part of the process," says Ms. Reiter. "In the morning we have the pre-OR meeting we decide on who is responsible for what steps in the process, the environmental services staff and instrument techs all help transport the patient. The process is explained upfront to the patient so they know if they want to go to the bathroom they must do go anesthesia arrives."
The surgery center staff members have this process internalized, but sometimes surgeons are late and delay start times. When surgeons are late, Ms. Reiter gently texts them about their missed start time, and she records their information in the late log.
"The late log is somewhere they don't want to appear," says Ms. Reiter. "We tell them when they are in the late log and they try not to be. Everyone has their goal that their jobs should be completed 15 minutes before the case start time and the handover should take place 15 minutes before the posted time."
2. Pursue patient-centered initiatives. Patient satisfaction is important for all providers to build a positive reputation and certainly helps with a multitude of things; even negotiate reimbursement rates in the future. DISC has several patient-centered initiatives aimed at improving the ASC experience for the patient, such as distributing patient education material and a goodbye gift for all surgical patients that includes their dressing and hand sanitizer.
"The overnight patients get a big, high-quality blanket that has our logo in the middle," says Ms. Reiter. "The blanket is on their bed when they come out of surgery and they can take those blankets home with them. The other thing patients love is the water bottles we give them. We wanted to help save the environment so we give them a reusable water bottle with our logo filled with filtered water. It's good marketing but doesn't cost a lot and patients like to know they are doing something for the environment at the same time."
Staff members make an effort to greet patients by their name, when possible, upon their arrival at the center. Everyone, from the front office staff to the nurses, is cheerful when interacting with patients.
3. 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.
4. Surgeon lunches. When surgeons perform multiple cases at the facility over the lunch hour, cater DISC buys their lunch. DISC has a "two-case minimum" lunch special, which means if surgeons do back-to-back cases the staff buys them their lunch.
"We ask where they want lunch and make a special order for them," says Ms. Reiter. "Adding a free lunch increased the case volume a little bit and makes surgeons feel good about performing multiple cases at the center."
5. Show appreciation for physicians. Physicians and staff members will feel better about their time at the surgery center if administrators and other ASC leaders are appreciative of their efforts.
"I always seek out surgeons who are at the surgery center and thank them for bringing cases that day," says Ms. Reiter. "Three surgeons have come to my office and said it really makes a difference. We also keep the ASC incredibly tidy, make sure physician bathrooms are tidy and make sure their scrubs are always in place. It takes a lot to be good, but it doesn't take a lot more to be exceptional."
Ms. Reiter also makes an effort to send personal birthday cards signed by the staff to the surgeons and mail it to their houses so the card is received on time.
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