Good documentation is an essential element of effective care and medical transcription outsourcing plays an important role in helping surgeons maintain EHR progress notes and operative reports. However, surgical care is different from medical care and it is therefore important to examine the relationship between patient satisfaction and quality for surgical patients, according to research published in the Annals of Surgery in 2015. In fact, the inclusion of Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Value-Based Purchasing Program (VBP) underlines the importance of the patient experience as a key quality metric. Poor patient satisfaction scores can affect a surgical center’s reputation as well as reimbursement.
Here are some effective ways in which surgery centers can enhance the patient experience:
- Optimize the pre-surgery experience: There are many players involved in the pre-surgery process such as the surgical center staff in pre-admission or pre-anesthesia testing, the surgeon and his/her staff, hospitalist, OR director, anesthesiologist, CRNAs, nurses, and staff members in patient financial services and admissions. A Beckers Hospital Review report points out that proper orchestration and streamlining of all the areas of pre-surgery can make the experience less stressful for the patient, improve clinical outcomes, and boost patient satisfaction.
All the areas that need patient information and discussion prior to surgery should be linked to the scheduling process. Pre-admission testing and clearances must be completed and evaluated prior to surgery. In addition to reducing delays and cancellations, preparing the patient well can also reduce complications that can lead to hospital readmissions and increased length of stay. Insurance verification services are critical to determine patient eligibility, remind the patient of the co-pay and deductible requirements, and set expectations for billing and payment. The surgery center/hospital staff can also contact and inform the patient of the procedure day and time, the required preparation, medication related instructions. They should ensure the patient has proper transportation and answer any questions the patient may have.
- Ease day of surgery experience: The day of the operation is when patient anxiety is highest. The Beckers Hospital Review report notes that key players in the perioperative process can help alleviate stress through patient contact and staged interaction. Improving patient satisfaction at this stage includes providing clear wayward signage and instructions – from the parking lot or entrance to the check-in desk. Some organizations have a medical assistant meet surgical patients and escort them to registration or their patient room. Consistent communication at every stage is critical to improving patient satisfaction scores. If times are delayed, the caregiver should immediately explain the situation to the patient and family members and reschedule timings for the revised surgical day and alert the patient about this. In the operating room, the staff should carry out their interviews and pre-surgical evaluation and checklists in a sequenced manner, which will reduce patient anxiety and make the process go smoothly.
An Outpatient Surgery Magazine report describes how Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago uses music to calm surgical patients’ nerves. Each pre-op bay in the hospital is equipped with a computer monitor that’s hooked to an Internet music radio service. When patients at the hospital settle into their pre-op beds, they receive disposable ear buds and can relax listening to music before their surgery.
- Engage the patient’s family: In addition to communicating effectively with the patient, effective communication with the patient’s family is a critical factor in patient satisfaction. The patient’s family is an essential element in the care of the patient. When the patient is in the operating room (OR), family members waiting outside can be really nervous and it is up to the surgeon and OR team to communicate with them. In the Outpatient Surgery Magazine report, Mauricio Garrido, MD, clinical director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health in suburban Philadelphia explains how set up a videoconference linking a feed in the OR to an iPad and uses it to update the family in the waiting room. While nothing in the operative field shows on screen, the team lets the family know they have overcome the major hurdles of the operation. Garrido says that video conferencing with families in the waiting room is beneficial not only for the family but also motivates his staff when they see the family members “being grateful and relaxing”.
- Ensure a smooth post-surgical experience: Once the patient is awake and stable, surgeons can explain to both the patient and their care givers what exactly was performed, what the patient can expect, as well as inform them about the follow-up visit or call. Both the nurses and the anesthesia providers should observe the patient’s symptoms and pain level, and contact the surgeon if any intervention is required. Surgery centers must also take steps to inform the patient about the billing process and integrate patient financial services within the process to provide patients with answers to their billing questions.
- Smooth and timely discharge: Patients usually want to leave quickly and surgery centers need to get them out without compromising patient safety. Having a standardized discharge process handled by a discharge nurse with clinical experience and communication skills can promote smooth the timely discharge. The nurse navigator can help patients ensure compliance with their post-surgery care instructions. Making the discharge experience pleasurable can also boost patient satisfaction. The Outpatient Surgery Magazine reported on the unique patient pleasing strategy used by Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. The hospital sends its younger patients home with a drawstring backpack shaped like the face of a bear and with the hospital’s logo printed on it! In addition to being convenient way to transport paperwork and belongings, this strategy also makes the hospital’s name visible in the community.
As surgery centers implement streamlined processes and innovation to improve patient satisfaction scores, medical transcription companies can take care of their documentation needs.