Becky Mann, director of the center, says that Houston is able to standout in this market because of its focus on the patient. In addition to paying careful attention to obvious indicators of patient satisfaction, such as clinical outcomes, the center also pays attention to “the little things” to that lead to greater patient satisfaction.
According to Ms. Mann, word of mouth is a big part of the center’s success. “We’ve had a number of patients tell us that they chose us for their surgery because their next-door neighbor or friend had a surgery here,” she says.
Here are three best practices for patient satisfaction that Houston Orthopedic follows that have helped keep current patients buzzing about the center and encouraging future ones to come in.
1. Keep the patient informed. Ms. Mann says that a well-informed patient is critical to the center’s mission of putting the patient first.
The staff at Houston Orthopedic calls patients several times before and after their surgeries, according to Ms. Mann. During these calls, office staff members at Houston Orthopedic discuss scheduling and billing information while clinical staff members discuss preoperative and postoperative instructions with the patient.
“We provide the patient with detailed preoperative and postoperative instructions in addition to a detailed account of what will occur on their day of surgery,” says Ms. Mann. “We don’t want any surprises for the patient.”
Tracy Moore, who works in the billing office, works to provide a personal touch to each financial phone call she makes to patients. “I try to explain how their insurance will pay and what the patient will need to pay,” she says. “These calls take time, but it is an excellent step to establishing a relationship with the patient.”
Michelle Reitz, office manager at Houston Orthopedic, says that informing patients about their insurance benefits is essential to patient satisfaction. “I feel it is essential for patients to understand their insurance benefits. I am here to offer any questions the patient may have regarding their insurance or financial concerns before or after their surgery,” says Ms. Reitz. “Often, patients have questions once they receive their Explanation of Benefits from their insurance company, and I am always willing to help explain how the claim was paid.”
In addition to keeping patients informed about their surgery and the facility, Houston Orthopedic’s physicians and nursing staff communicate with the patient frequently. “Our surgeons greet every patient before his or her surgery and meet with each patient’s family immediately after,” says Ms. Mann. “We want the patient-physician line of communication to go all the way through their time at our facility.”
Each anesthesiologist assigned to a case also greets the patient and family before the procedure. Ms. Mann says that this introduction gives patients the opportunity to ask any questions about going under anesthesia and helps reduce billing questions about anesthesiologist fees that may arise later. “Our patients aren’t surprised when they get an anesthesiology bill,” she says. “Reducing uncertainty about billing is just as important as reducing uncertainty about the medical procedure when it comes to patient satisfaction.”
2. Keep the patient comfortable. Another aspect of patient satisfaction that Ms. Mann says is important to patient satisfaction is patient comfort. Many of the actions that staff at Houston Orthopedic take to keep their patients comfortable are quite simple, but can make a big difference, according to Ms. Mann.
“We provide a warm gown as well as a blanket and slippers to every patient,” she says.
Valenta Golden, a preoperative nurse at the center, says, “Warming the gowns is a small way I let the patient know I want them to be comfortable.”
Keeping the patient comfortable also means valuing the patients’ time. Ms. Mann suggests that surgery centers try to keep their scheduling on time and offer alternatives to patients who would otherwise be kept waiting. “If your schedule is running late, call the patients and let them know they can come in a few minutes late,” she says.
Ms. Mann also recommends that centers provide some sort of activity for patients who have already arrived at the center. “If patients have waiting time, even 20-30 minutes, we present them and their families with a menu of different movie options, which we can play for them on DVD player while they wait.”
Ensuring that patients are familiar with all the people they will be interacting with while at the center is another way that Houston Orthopedic works to keep patients comfortable.
In addition to meeting their surgeon and anesthesiologists, patients are introduced to every member of the staff – from nurses and surgical technicians to front-office staff – as they travel throughout the center. “We will even introduce the patient to a salesperson, if one happens to be at the facility during the person’s procedure,” says Ms. Mann.
3. Keep the patient’s family happy. A final area of patient satisfaction that Ms. Mann says can make a big difference is treatment of a patient’s family. “We work very hard to ensure that our patients’ families are happy during their visit,” she says. “We try as much as we can to make our lobby feel like home, rather than just a waiting area.”
The surgery center provides refreshments, including muffins every morning, for the families visiting the center and also keeps blankets and a DVD player with a variety of movie selections available for family members.
Lisa Kesler, a business office employee, reports that she routinely steps away from her front-office responsibilities to interact with patients’ families. “Hourly, I ask the families if they would like something to drink, or if they’d like an update on their family member.”
Ms. Mann says the main reason that Houston Orthopedic is able to treat families so well is that every staff member makes and effort to keep families, as well as the patients, happy. “There is no one here that would think they are above serving coffee to a family,” she says.