10 Key Steps to Boost Patient Satisfaction in ASCs

Kelly Durian is executive director of the Iowa City Ambulatory Surgery Center, managed by Surgical Management Professionals. The center won the 2010/2011 CTQ Apex award for exhibiting consistently high levels of performance, based on patient satisfaction survey scores for about 600 ASCs. Here Mr. Durian cites 10 key steps his ASC has taken to boost patient satisfaction.

1. First impressions count.
A good impression on the part of patients starts with the ASC's first phone call to them. The staff member who makes this call should have a reassuring manner, showing compassion and patience, particularly with elderly patients who are slow to respond. "An experienced nurse who interacts well with patients should be making these calls," Mr. Durian says.

2. Make registration simple. The ASC has moved registration for most patients online, eliminating the time-consuming patient registration phone call by allowing patients to fill out information on their own time, Mr. Durian says. With the new system from Source Medical, patients log onto a secure website and enter information there. About 40 percent of patients don't go online and still need to be telephoned. Patients who register online still get a call from an ASC nurse prior to surgery to review the data they entered.

3. Treat patients like family. Staff members should take a personal interest in patients. "One thing we emphasize with the staff is to treat patients as they would want to be treated if they or their family member were patients here," Mr. Durian says. "That kind of perspective resonates with them."

4. Hire top-notch employees. Competent, caring employees who are team players make for a smooth-running organization that patients love. "We are deliberate about employee selection," Mr. Durian says. He and his staff spend a great deal of time preparing for job interviews, and each candidate goes before Mr. Durian and at least four other staff members. This allows potential coworkers to feel part of the hiring process and to contribute their own valuable perspectives.

5. Ensure employee satisfaction. When staff members feel good about their jobs, they are more likely to provide a superior patient experience. "There is a strong correlation between employee satisfaction and patient satisfaction," Mr. Durian says. "Make sure you take care of your staff and provide them with the necessary tools to successfully perform their jobs." For example, are there enough staff members to handle patient flow? Do they have the supplies they need?

6. Foster good will among physicians. Good relations among physicians make for a well-run, high-energy center where patients feel welcome. Although the ASC opened just three years ago, its surgeons and anesthesiology group worked together for many years at the local community hospital. "The physicians knew each other even before the center opened, which helps make for good relationships," Mr. Durian says.

7. Adjust schedules to keep on time. Late starts are a major concern for patients. To minimize them, take a look at past schedules and note long-term trends. Identify physicians who are frequently running over or under their block times and adjust their allocated block times accordingly. "When a physician is constantly running over his allotted time, his block time needs to be expanded," Mr. Durian says.

8. 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."

9. Clarify discharge instructions. Discharge instructions are major source of patient confusion. "We try to go over discharge expectations more than once with the patient," Mr. Durian says. ASC personnel start going over the post-op process in the initial call to the patient. Post-op RNs follow up and the material is displayed on a white board in the post-op room.


10. Read satisfaction surveys carefully. Results of patient satisfaction surveys are shared at regular meetings with all staff. Low scores are closely dissected and high scores are celebrated. In meetings, staff members also discuss patients' comments and the comments are shared with physicians. "We've found that when physicians are aware of patient comments, they want to find ways to improve," Mr. Durian says. "After all, it is their center and they want patients to have a positive experience."

Learn more about Iowa City Ambulatory Surgery Center.


Related Articles on Patient Satisfaction:

Iowa City Ambulatory Surgical Center Receives 2010/2011 APEX Quality Award

7 Predictions From ASC Physicians on the Future of Surgery Center Physician Ownership

Best Use of Patient Satisfaction Surveys in ASCs: Q&A With Dennis Martin at Health Inventures


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