Posts Tagged mission

Patient Satisfaction: What Is It Really Worth?

Patient Satisfaction: What Is It Really Worth?

In previous years, patient satisfaction discussions pertained only to patient surveys and results. Some managers believe surveys are utilized by specialties, such as plastic surgery practices that primarily operate on a cash basis. However, consumerism is here to stay! Cost and quality will create a level playing field in health care and increase the importance of patient satisfaction. When working with a practice, I love to sit in the waiting room to see operations from the patient’s point of view. I also search the specialty online to review the competition and the effectiveness of the practice’s website. During my research, I may also see online reviews, which speak directly to the patient experience.

Every business is a function of its people. Choosing the right people, training them continually and providing ongoing communication is essential to creating an exceptional patient experience. A successful practice has an established culture through a mission statement that is expressed each day through the actions of the physicians, managers and staff. Loyalty and profitability follow when an organization makes a promise to a customer and delivers on the promise over, and over again.

As an administrator, I begin with a good job description and then hire the person with the desired behaviors and skills to perform the task or job. A consistent training program is a key to success, it is not simply assigning a new staff to another employee for training. The staff training should occur through various methods with a supervisor or mentor. Once training is complete, the employee’s performance is validated before they are released to perform the task unsupervised.

Patient satisfaction surveys focus on each aspect of the patient’s visit to assure each person is delivering great service and managing their responsibilities to complete the assigned tasks. Medical staff may be highly trained on a specific clinical task, but a customer service attitude is essential when dealing with patients. Defining a plan to act quickly on feedback from a patient survey is essential to mitigate a problem.

You cannot prevent all problems, but the way you handle a problem can salvage a relationship. Establish key behaviors for staff to protect the patient relationship. If you hired people with a genuine heart for service in a medical practice, a problem may arise but the commitment to patient satisfaction should preserve the patient relationship.

Technology is rapidly improving. We have the tools to measure every activity in our practice to ensure the patient experience is exceptional. Phone systems have the capability to measure abandoned calls, length of time on hold, and the number of calls going to voicemail. Our practice management systems include reports and options to monitor first available appointments, percent of patients utilizing the patient portal and patient flow.

There are many tools to promote better patient engagement, including online registration to eliminate paperwork or automated appointment reminders using text, email or call. The patient portal, if promoted and correctly utilized, can reduce phone calls and improve the patient experience. The portal allows for ongoing communication, as opposed to hours waiting by the phone only to miss the call, which increases the call volume. The portal gives the patient access to information to share with other providers.

The development of defined processes and policies is essential to effective training. If the policies are ineffective, or if management does not enforce the policies, then the patient experience is affected. Patients who have an exceptional experience will tell a few people. If they have a poor experience, they may tell the story over and over again.

If your practice relies on referrals from other physician practices, do not underestimate the power of the referring office. The referring provider can send patients elsewhere if the patient is not satisfied with your practice. You should be able to identify the top 20 referring physicians and track the volume of referrals to assure it is consistent. The manager should contact the manager of the referring practice to assure needs are being met and the feedback is good.

It is important to know what makes your practice thrive. It is comprised of multiple factors, including good physicians and loyal employees, which lead to strong referring relationships. A medical practice exists for the patients, so what is patient satisfaction worth? EVERYTHING!

Article contributed by Tammie Lunceford, Healthcare and Dental Consultant, Warren Averett Healthcare Consulting Group. Warren Averett is an official partner with the Medical Association.

Posted in: Leadership

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President Trump Signs VA Mission Act

President Trump Signs VA Mission Act

UPDATE JUNE 6, 2018: President Trump signed the VA Mission Act designed to increase veterans’ access to timely and private health care. The new VA law aims to combine and expand existing community care programs during the next year with intentions to roll out one centralized community care program next May.

Building off the positive changes enacted by the Choice Program, which was created in 2014 after two veterans died waiting for appointments, the Mission Act broadens the circumstances for which veterans can receive non-VA health care. Presently, veterans can seek third-party medical care if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or if they must wait over 30 days for an appointment. The Mission Act will also allow veterans access to non-VA health care if they are in need of a service the VA does not offer or if their doctor thinks it is in the best interest of the patient.

With access to non-VA health care becoming more accessible, some lawmakers became fearful the new law would undermine the VA. The Mission Act recognizes this potential and includes incentives and funding to ensure the Act does not drive veterans away from the VA. The order will boost funding to allow the VA to hire more health care professionals in addition to offering scholarships to medical students willing to work for the VA.

Additionally, the new measure will help pre-9/11 veterans by giving them benefits to help cover the cost of in-home caregivers. Post-9/11 veterans already have access to such benefits. These benefits offer an alternative to institutionalized health care and will help take some of the cost of local governments.

While the Mission Act passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate with bi-partisan support in May 2018, there is a debate on exactly how the measure will be funded after May 2019. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is working across party lines in both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Veteran’s Affairs Committee to help establish the best possible funding plan for the VA Mission Act.

Posted in: Advocacy

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