Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Why Patient Satisfaction Matters for Radiology

Published on the Nov. 5, 2012, Diagnostic Imaging website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

In 2014, CMS will add yet another factor into the mix of how your reimbursement payments are determined. That’s when hospital patient satisfaction surveys— known as HCAHPS — will begin to play a role in your bottom line.

Surveying patient satisfaction with health services isn’t new, but HCAHPS — Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems — is the first national effort to collect this information. Once implemented, the survey has three goals: produce comparable data on how patients perceive their care; give hospitals information needed to improve their care quality; and increase transparency surrounding hospital care. Eventually, CMS plans to use this patient satisfaction data to determine the level of reimbursement it will give hospitals for services rendered.

Concern over patient satisfaction has already taken hold in many hospitals. In a recent poll of hospital-based imaging directors and managers on the MarkeTech’s imagePRO panel, roughly 85 percent reported that maintaining or improving patient satisfaction ranks among the top third of their organizational priorities. In addition, 65 percent said hospital administration is committed to making those enhancements happen.

In radiology where providers often have little-to-no direct patient contact, why is it important for you to think about how happy patients are with the services you provide? It turns out, said James Lipcamon, outpatient imaging services manager for East Cooper Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant, SC, patient satisfaction is a big deal for today’s radiologists, both in the hospital and private imaging center setting.

“For any patient coming into a hospital setting or an imaging center, they already expect our competency. That’s not what they’re mainly concerned about; they’re looking for the warm fuzzies,” he said. “And, if you’re in a competitive market, patient satisfaction is critical because word-of-mouth drives a lot of health care business. Someone has a bad experience with you, they’ll tell 10 people. If they have a good one, they’ll tell three or four.”

Improving Your Scores

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to maximize patient happiness, and most strategies are fairly simple. The HCAHPS data can give you a clear understanding of how much patients approve or disapprove of your department’s performance, Lipcamon said.

For example, use patient satisfaction cards to gather opinions and recommendations from patients about areas where you can improve. Ask them if it was easy to make an appointment, if the front staff welcomed them warmly, and if they received clear directions during the visit. You should also inquire about how quickly they were seen once they arrived for the appointment. Phone surveys are also an effective way to collect responses.

Radiology departments and practices can also improve their HCAHPS scores through an initiative known as AIDET — Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explain, and Thank You — said Jason Scott, director of imaging, cardiac diagnostics, pulmonary, and neurodiagnostics at Witham Health Services in Lebanon, Ind. AIDET works, he said, because it creates a culture that makes patient satisfaction a central priority at all times.

“Imaging staff needs to be constantly reminded that management expects patients to be taken care of in a quality manner,” he said. “Having an engaged staff is critical in achieving and sustaining patient satisfaction goals.”

When used properly, AIDET can give your staff the guidance needed to effectively address any problems that occur during a patient’s visit, such as an extended wait, during the time of service. Each person should also take the time to introduce themselves, describe what they do, and detail their level of experience. Informing the patient can relieve any anxiety they feel over an imaging study, Scott said.

In that vein, keep patients and any accompanying family members informed about anticipated wait times and how long a test will reasonably take. It’s also important for your staff to explain each step in a procedure and why they’re doing it. For instance, let patients know why an IV line for a contrast agent is necessary, he said. And, most importantly, thank patients not only for their cooperation during a procedure, but also for choosing your practice or department for their study.

By keeping patient needs and responses in mind at all times, some radiology departments are already experiencing success. The radiology departments at Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital and Howard Young Medical Center recently announced their patient satisfaction scores, determined by patient satisfaction survey company NRC Picker, put them in the top 10 percent of hospital radiology departments nationwide.

“Keeping the patient first is our No. 1 priority,” Rebecca Morin, vice president of patient care services, said in a written statement. “Our radiology technologists are very respectful and responsive to the needs, wants, and values of each patient.”

To read the remainder of the story at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/practice-management/content/article/113619/2112413


November 7, 2012 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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