Stellar, problem-free surgery isn't enough to earn high satisfaction scores from most patients, says Mary Radke, RN, BSN, ASC manager of the Dakota Eye Surgery Center in Bismarck, N.D. It's just one part of a much bigger puzzle. "Patients assume surgery is going to be top-notch," she says, "but they're still nervous. Patient satisfaction, in this day and age, comes from the way patients are treated."
The people at Dakota Eye Surgery Center don't just go out of their way to make every patient feel like a star, they also treat patients' families like royalty. And the verdict is in. Patients give this year's OR Excellence Award winner for Patient Satisfaction a resounding thumbs-up. An amazing 98.9% of Dakota Eye Surgery Center's patients rate their satisfaction a 5 (on a 1 to 5 scale).
How do such phenomenal scores happen? It begins with an informational pre-op phone call to the patient. Along with general questions about allergies and who'll be driving them to the center, the discussion may cover any fears the patient has regarding sedation, or whether he will be able to play golf again afterward.
Then, from the moment they arrive at the center, patients and families are pampered and attended to. "Our receptionist was born and raised here, and I think she knows half of the people in Bismarck. She greets them by name," says Ms. Radke. "Meanwhile, when other staff members see patients coming, they'll open the door, and say: 'Hi, how are you? We've been waiting for you!'"
The goal is to calm jittery nerves. And in the center's friendly glow, nervousness quickly begins to melt away. "You can see it happen," says Ms. Radke. "We give them a nice warm blanket, put them in a recliner, and as they start to relax, we visit about different things. For example, if we know they just had a child go off to college, or they just got back from vacation, we always put that on their chart, so we can talk about things that are meaningful to them."
The surgeon also visits with patients and families before all cases. By the time they're ready to go back to surgery, patients are often relaxed to the point that they don't need sedation, she says.
REGIONAL ONE HEALTH
Greeting surgery patients at their cars and escorting them into the building is just the beginning of the service provided by Regional One Health, a Level 1 trauma center in Memphis, Tenn.
"I was the administrator at 2 surgery centers," says Kathy Beydler, RN, MBA, CNOR, CASC, the center's director of surgical services. "I saw how well patients and families were treated there. We want to build the same rapport."
Inspired by the Ritz-Carlton, with its extraordinary and legendary customer service, the staff at Regional One strives for the highest level of care for patients and their families.
"Family members are as concerned about the patient as the patient is," says Ms. Beydler. "And they have no control." To help ease the journey, loved ones are treated to snacks and coffee as they wait, and a message board, with an assigned number for each patient, keeps them up to date as the patient moves from pre-op, to the OR, to post-op. Additionally, the staff provides personal updates every hour. "No matter what," says Ms. Beydler, "and through whatever their preferred mode of communication is. We know that if the family is supported, the patient is supported, because they don't have to worry about their family."
The framed sign in the recently refurbished waiting room says it all: You are the most important thing to us. If you have any questions while you're here, please call followed by a name and number. Ms. Beydler's personal cell phone number is on the business card that gets passed out by the center's "concierge," so providing excellent service can be a 24/7 proposition.
"When we ask for feedback from family members, we ask them to tell us 3 things we can do to make things better," she says. "I just got one back yesterday that said there's not one thing you need to do differently. Just keep doing what you're doing. But sometimes people do say, it could be a little warmer, or you might consider providing a certain kind of snack. If it's something we can do, then we absolutely do it."
The feedback has been strong, and on the rare occasions that something needs to be addressed, the nurse manager of the appropriate area follows up with a phone call.
"We're very proud of the work we do," says Ms. Beydler. "But we're not resting on our laurels. We want to distinguish ourselves. We don't want to just be known for trauma. We want to be known for service excellence in everything we do, and we are absolutely unrelenting in that."
Once the patient is in the capable hands of the surgical staff, the patient's family becomes a center of attention. They're invited into a viewing room, where they can watch the surgery or, if they're squeamish, simply have all their questions answered as it proceeds.
The viewing room is staffed full-time by a "family coordinator." "She's very well-versed with what goes on with surgery," says Ms. Radke. "She serves the family cookies and coffee or juice, she shows them the lens that's going to go into the eye, and she explains what's going on. They love it." Families, she says, usually have plenty of questions (including things like, "Will she be able to go bowling tonight?") and often come out amazed at what they've seen and learned.
As the facility manager, Ms. Radke also makes it a point to check in with every family, and to answer any and all questions.
After surgery, the surgeon again visits with the family, while the patient enjoys toast, coffee and juice. If patients have come from out of town and need to wait for their post-op appointments, the center provides lunch from a nearby sandwich shop.
Surgeons then follow up with phone calls that evening and the next day. And every member of the staff signs a thank-you card for the patient.
Of course a high level of friendly, outgoing service wouldn't be possible if the Dakota Eye Surgery Center weren't also focused on keeping employees satisfied. Even patients with cataracts would see right through insincere concern. The secret?
"When we were hiring, I wasn't interested in whether people had worked in a surgery center," says Ms. Radke. "I was interested in getting people who had a genuine interest in patients and in people." And 15 years later, 10 members of the original staff remain with the center. "The only hiring I've done has been when we needed additional people," she says.
To check on whether everyone's feeling up to par, the staff spends 15 or 20 minutes at the start of the day discussing the challenges ahead, or possibly the challenges they faced before leaving home. "If somebody says, my child was sick all weekend and I didn't get any sleep, people will step up and say, you need to have a little less on your plate today," says Ms. Radke. "They'll say, maybe you should just work in post-op today, where it's a little quieter. Or maybe go back in surgery and just do instruments.
"We're a very, very close-knit staff and we've all become friends. I had a new employee say recently, 'I've never worked anywhere where everybody is so happy and so friendly and so willing to work together.' That's what we want. If you keep your employees feeling that way, your patients are going to feel that way, too."
Even the patients who come in with bad moods on full display.
"We love a challenge," says Ms. Radke. "When patients are grouchy, a lot of times killing them with kindness works. Often they're grouchy because they have a lot going on at home, or a lot of things on their mind. Sometimes they just need somebody to pay some attention and be nice to them. When they find out we don't care if they're grouchy, that we're still going to treat them like they're the greatest thing that ever came through that door, a lot of times they go out feeling 100 percent better about themselves."