Here are 11 ways ambulatory surgery center leaders plan to improve the experience of their patients in 2012.
1. Always keep patients informed of delays. Regina Robinson, RN, MBA, CMPE, CASC, director of Peninsula Surgery Center in Newport News, Va., says her ASC will continue to work to keep patients and their families aware of any delays in the schedule, which includes calling patients at home.
"Some of them choose to delay their arrival time because it is more comfortable to stay home … than having them wait in the lobby," she says.
2. 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."
3. Provide "care bags" to patients and families with extended wait time. Todd Currier, CMPE, CPA, administrator for Northern Wyoming Surgical Center in Cody, says his ASC occasionally receives comments concerning extended waiting times for those days when procedures run long.
"In 2012, we are going to implement 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."
4. Stay the course with what already works. Mr. Currier says his ASC receives a consistent 98 percent on its patient satisfaction surveys, and attributes this to the staff and the quality, comfort and quality care they work to provide daily, he says.
"In 2012, we will continue to deliver some of the same philosophies," Mr. Currier says. "I believe in hiring great staff, providing educational opportunities (mostly in-services and webinars), expecting and rewarding excellence and keeping [staff] informed of operational and financial challenges that we face, as well as the ASC industry in general. This has proven to be a big contributor to our patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction and ultimately staff satisfaction. For us, enhancing our patient experience means to keep our staff abreast of the purpose of providing that experience."
5. Schedule procedures more accurately. Christopher Collins, RN, BSHCA, administrator/director of nursing for NJSR Surgical Center in Pompton Lakes, N.J., says NJSR has identified, through performance improvement projects, that waiting time is a significant issue for the ASC's patients, specifically relating to the time from entry into the facility to procedure/surgery time. He says NJSR has already taken several steps to alleviate those complaints, and these efforts should carry into 2012.
"Initially, we have started to more accurately determine surgical and procedure times based on specific physicians so that we can more accurately schedule entry times into the facility," Mr. Collins says. "In addition, we have opened our own transportation company for travel between patients' homes and the facility, giving us much more control than the contracted company we had been dealing with. We believe that full implementation of these two elements should improve the patient experience at our facility.
6. Better coordination of care with anesthesia. Mr. Collins says NJSR will be coordinating care more effectively with its anesthesia providers to better ensure safety during a patient's stay.
"This means that the anesthesia providers will have access to the patient's records and reach out to the patient by phone well in advance of their date of service," he says. "This will enhance the patient's comfort level and their overall safety during their stay."
7. Focus on means to identify patient payment portion upfront and provide more options to pay. Chuck Brown, administrator of Bidwell Surgery Center, a Health Inventures ASC in Middletown, Ohio, says many surgery centers receive lower patient satisfaction marks due to the billing aspect of the ASC experience.
"Much of that is likely attributable to the fact that the patients have to pay for a service that isn't much fun," he says. "It's human nature when you have to pay for something that isn't enjoyable; if the patient went through the exact process to buy a television, there would be no complaints."
With rising deductibles and co-insurances, more money is expected to come directly from the patients than ever before, so Mr. Brown says his ASC is working to improve the patients' experience with billing. The surgery center staff will try to identify the patient portion upfront and provide the patient with more convenient options to finance and pay for surgery.
"We are offering payment plans that automatically make monthly payments via credit card or bank account," he says. "We are offering online payment methods that link to the patients' account balances. We offer CareCredit, which is essentially a healthcare credit vehicle. The goal is to make it convenient to pay bills, and, of course, that improves our collections as well."
8. Provide free educational seminars. John D. Brock, administrator for NorthStar Surgical Center in Lubbock, Texas, says his ASC will provide free seminars targeted at educating potential patients. The seminars will focus on "new and existing procedures and treatment methods for various health issues such as incontinence, migraines and joint replacement," he says.
9. Improve communication with patients on procedure start times. Mr. Brock says his ASC is working to more effectively communicate to patients when their procedure will begin and the variables that may impact scheduled start times. "Often patients do not understand that a surgeon's previous case may have gone longer than anticipated or that the surgeon may have been delayed at the hospital due to emergency or an inpatient case," he says.
10. Develop a website. Amy McKiernan, RN, nursing administrator for Louisville (Ky.) Surgery Center, an ASD Management facility, says she plans to make 2012 the year her ASC develops a website. "I hope it will give lots of information," she says.
11. Enhance the pediatric patient experience at discharge. Louisville Surgery Center has a 51 percent pediatric population. Ms. McKiernan says the ASC is looking into purchasing coloring books and crayons for these patients to use and take home with them.
Related Articles on Patient Satisfaction:
Money Matters: How the ASC Revenue Cycle Impacts Patient Satisfaction
Online Survey Shows How Staff Perceptions of Their Roles Impact Patient Satisfaction
5 Steps to Develop an Outstanding ASC Quality Program