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Improving the Patient Experience Follow these ‘Five Habits’ BY ROBERT KURTZ


n mid-2014, Deerfield, Illinois-based surgical solutions provider Surgical

Care Affiliates (SCA) set out to deter- mine what could be done for every patient to consistently improve the patient experience. To achieve this objective, SCA formed a committee that looked at organizations and com- panies known for their customer service excellence, including the Cleveland Clinic, Disney and Starbucks. The result was the development of

the following “five habits” that were rolled out across SCA in January 2015, says Michelle George, SCA’s vice president of clinical services. 1. Make a connection. “This starts by smiling and introducing your- self when patients and their family arrive at your center,” George says. “It is amazing how often this does not happen when you think it is always happening.”

2. Find out what matters most. ASC staff ask patients about their primary concern during the preop phone call and do everything possible to mitigate that concern during their stay.

The most

common complaints patients have are of being cold and in pain.

“We share that concern from one

caregiver to another as we hand off the patient,” George says. “We document the concern in the patient’s medical record so our caregivers always see it. We take extra steps to address the con- cern and make sure the patient knows of our efforts.” 3. Set the expectation for your ser- vice. ASC staff proactively share with the patient what will happen during the stay, when it is going to happen and about how long it is going to take.

“Together with that is trying to proactively address any delays or issues


It is scary enough to have surgery. We do not need to be attaching more anxiety to it.”

—Michelle George, Surgical Care Affiliates

that might worry a patient and making sure you are communicating with the patient about the issue,” George says. “It is scary enough to have surgery. We do not need to be attaching more anxiety to it.” 4. Request real-time feedback. SCA’s ASCs have always made a discharge phone call to the patient’s home to discuss follow-up issues, including pain management, dress- ing or wound management and confirmation that a follow-up with a physician is scheduled. Now pa- tients are also asked if anything could have been done to improve their ASC experience. “The good news is most patients

say everything was wonderful,” George says. “Occasionally, patients will say

they were cold, blankets were rough or they did not have enough food in the recovery area. We work to put measures in place to hopefully prevent these issues from occurring again for that particular patient and any other patients.” 5. Share a thank you. Patients who come through an SCA facility receive a handwritten thank you note sent to their home. “Every teammate who cared for them, including their physician and anesthesia provider, writes a little heartfelt message,” George says. “It essentially extends the stay into the patient’s home at a time when they are recovered. We have actually received thank you notes from patients for the note we sent them. It can have quite an impact on their experience.”

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