OR Excellence Awards: Patient Satisfaction: A Happier Wait — While Patients Dilate

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Instead of growing antsy, patients at Newsom Surgery Center of Sebring (Fla.) make ‘new friends’ during a traditionally frustrating preoperative process and wind up sharing their experiences online.

Newsom Surgery Center of Sebring (Fla.) is a high-volume Ophthalmology-based ASC that places efficiency right below safe, superior and highly satisfying care and best-in-class outcomes on its priority list. But that’s not to say the two areas are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, patient satisfaction is generally tied directly to efficiency — a well-run facility that allows people to be in and out as quickly as possible. A balance of efficiency and creativity is what brought home the 2023 OR Excellence Award in Patient Satisfaction for Newsom Surgery Center.

Leesa R. Skipper, RN, nurse manager at the center, says block scheduling is what allows patients to be in and out of the facility quickly, a consideration everyone greatly appreciates. Typically, the center has 20 patients arriving in a 50-minute period, where they are quickly admitted and, for most procedures, begin the dilation process — a process that typically takes 20-30 minutes. Like the late-great Tom Petty said, The waiting is the hardest part — whether you’re dealing with an existential life change or an ophthalmic procedure. Despite the best intentions, Newsom Surgery Center staff noticed some frustration among patients during that dilation-waiting process. “There would be a lot of trips to the front desk and a lot of questions like ‘How much longer?’ or ‘What’s going on here?’ says Ms. Skipper.

Like any creative, solutions-centered ASC, the team at Newsom Surgery Center looked at that frustration as an opportunity. Utilizing the facility’s spacious pre- and post-op bays, the management team decided to arrange and space out chairs in circular pods of five chairs per bay. “When we escorted patients to a chair to wait during their dilation, we’d say, ‘We’re sitting you with here with some new ‘friends’ and encouraged them to pass the time chatting,” says Ms. Skipper.

The impact of the seating arrangement was instant, and once one gregarious patient started up the conversation, the entire pod would become caught up in the type of conversations that made everybody forget the wait. “Patients loved it. I’ve seen patients exchange phone numbers, share recipes, and recommend books and shows to binge watch — whereas previously they’d simply sit there in the waiting room with little or no interaction with those around them,” she says. Just last week, Ms. Skipper says one pod discovered they all coincidentally hailed from the same small town about an hour away from the center. “They were so loud and animated I wondered whether I was going to have to ask them quiet down,” she says.

Newsom Surgery Center’s seating experiment not only reduced the number of antsy patients visiting the front desk with questions about how much longer they’d need to wait, it also resulted a bump in positive comments online. Capitalizing on the boost in satisfied patients, the center revamped its Thank You cards to make it easier for people to share their positive experiences. For instance, patients will often mention to physicians how surprisingly enjoyable the pod-seating experience was or how accommodating and friendly staff were. “When this happens, we have a stack of business-card sized Thank You cards we hand out to patients,” says Ms. Skipper. “The cards say, “Thank You (in large print) for complementing our practice today! Please take a moment to post a kind comment about ___. Please visit your favorite social site and share your kind words with a friend,” adding that the cards include the logos of Yelp, Google and Facebook — the social sites Newsom Surgery Center is active on. For more savvy patients, the facility even has a handout with a QR code taking people directly to those sites where they leave their positive experience. The result is a deluge of social media love, according to Ms. Skipper. “It’s not uncommon for a happy patient to post a positive comment on a social site on the very same day as their procedure,” she says. Ultimately, Ms. Skipper credits the staff for Newsom Surgery Center’s high patient satisfaction scores and positive online reviews. “It comes down to having a staff in place who actually love what they do and want to make a difference in people’s lives.” OSM

Honorable Mention
Care That Puts Patients at the Center
Staff
WOW FACTOR When patients leave The Surgery Center in Shrewsbury, Mass., the entire care team makes sure they walk away eager to tell others about the wonderful experience they had.

For the care team at The Surgery Center in Shrewsbury, Mass., patient satisfaction is more than a quality metric, it’s a make-or-break component of its overall success.

“It’s all about patient experience,” says Pamela Linden, RN, BSN, director of ASC quality and education. “We want people to feel so good about their experience they say, ‘If you need surgery, I recommend The Surgery Center.’” That dedication translates into a 96% Top Box Facility Rating that puts The Surgery Center in the top 5% of ASCs that use Press Ganey for patient satisfaction scoring. Ms. Linden credits this modified version of the FISH! Philosophy (fishphilosophy.com):

Being present in the moment to enhance communication. “I think of one of our nurses who sits down with patients at the bedside during discharge and dedicates 100% of his focus to communicating with them,” says Ms. Linden.

Incorporating fun into the environment. It’s as simple as creating a light environment where everyone feels relaxed and comfortable. Music — genre rotated daily — is piped into pre-op and recovery bays. “One day it’s country and the next day it’s pop,” says Ms. Linden.

Finding simple ways to make someone’s day. The Surgery Center’s front desk staff — the staff Ms. Linden refers to as “the face of the ASC” — excels in this area by greeting patients with warm smiles, friendly greetings and welcoming banter beyond a formal check-in.

Making the choice to bring a positive attitude every day. Ms. Linden says a staff member’s demeanor impacts everybody they encounter and spreads throughout the facility.

The Surgery Center understands what’s at stake with patient satisfaction. “If you don’t have satisfied patients, then you’re simply not going to be successful,” says Ms. Linden.

—Jared Bilski

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