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How to Maximize ASC Patient Satisfaction: Put Patients in Control

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Healthcare providers are spending more time on improving patient safety and creating a better experience than ever before.

Laser Spine Institute has always taken a patient-centered approach to its care. But the surgery provider will evolve what patient care really means and how it can truly have impact as a quality improvement initiative for the organization in 2014.

"Patient satisfaction is  now  tied to CMS distributions, and  medical leaders are focused on how to get  it right," says Laser Spine Institute Vice President of Patient Experience Jason Jones. "Studies show that patient-centered practices have higher patient satisfaction and employee retention. We have to stop looking at service excellence as a business imperative and look at it as a quality imperative."

Patients as decision-makers — beyond clinical care
Healthcare providers now regularly include patients in making informed clinical decisions, but Laser Spine Institute takes this philosophy a step further and asks for patient input for all decisions making an impact on their experience at the center.

"A lot of practices want to talk about what they do for patients; we had to shift that entire way of thinking so we were discussing what we are doing with patients," says Mr. Jones. "Patients are our partners and we focus on how we can empower them to control the patient experience through inclusionary decision making. One way we did this is we got as granular as working with them to make decisions about the furniture in our facilities. We  ask the patients to vote on it and offer input. When we arrange the chairs in the waiting room, we asked what was most comfortable for them."

Laser Spine Institute previously had televisions for patients to watch while they waited, but those dictated what patients watched; they have now been replaced with iPads and tablets allowing patients to watch whatever they choose.

"They can control what they watch and how they want to be entertained in our facility," says Mr. Jones. "We also had to create a different educational area within our ASC. We started asking patients how they wanted to be educated on their experience and they said they'd rather have someone they could talk with than pamphlets to read. We inserted someone into our process who is responsible for walking patients through their entire experience with us before beginning their care."

Staff behavior changes
Sometimes it's the smallest things that can make the biggest difference in patient satisfaction. Mr. Jones and his team found changing the way staff and physicians talked to patients won their trust and made them feel more in control of their care.

"We didn't want to be the ones saying 'Based on what I see in your chart, this is what I (the provider) think you (the patient) should do'," says Mr. Jones. "Our conversations are more like 'Let's sit down together and I'll ask a few questions and let's build a plan of care together.' We had to build that mentality through a very strong set of core values in our organization."

Staff members are initiated with extensive training on Laser Spine Institute's core values and leaders consistently remind staff members of their patient-centered mission. at meetings.

"It's not a checklist process," says Mr. Jones. "It has to permeate everything we do and every decision we make. It's absolutely our culture to live our values."

Staff members at the center also make an effort to learn about patients before their appointments begin. Forming a familiar relationship can help relieve some of the anxieties around surgery.

"When they know patients are coming in, practices have an opportunity to find out about patient preferences and learn their biggest concerns," says Mr. Jones. "You can start meeting their needs before they even walk into your doors."

Obtaining feedback
Healthcare providers can solicit feedback from patients with paper or online surveys and gauge patient satisfaction scores as a result. However, there are several other ways to analyze the patient experience and gather more complete data about where patients are tripped up.

"When it comes to patient satisfaction, organizations can drive themselves crazy chasing scores," says Mr. Jones. "They end up just trying to increase their scores without necessarily making the best changes for their organization or patients long term. The last touch point patients have at our facility is with a patient concierge who asks them about the process and what could have made things better. We work hard to build trust with our patients, so they are very honest and tell us where we should focus to make the experience better for them."
Eliminating waste is an important part of patient satisfaction and can lead to quality projects for facility accreditation. "Planetree designation is something we are  working to achieve for our patients so they know we've gone to great lengths to meet those requirements and to put them at the forefront of everything we do," says Mr. Jones.

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