The Year of the Patient, MODERN HEALTHCARE's call for providers to concentrate on delivering efficient, quality care, with special emphasis on customer service, has entered its second month. In our Jan. 5 editorial, we promised to share some examples of organizations that are doing the right things.
Like most providers, Major Hospital in Shelbyville, Ind., thought it was patient-focused. But Chief Executive Officer Anthony Lennen decided to go full tilt by transforming the hospital's culture with a service makeover. And he was willing to make a substantial investment that decreased profits.
Last year the hospital had operating earnings of about $1.8 million on revenues of $24.2 million. But the 1998 budget anticipates a stunning 64% reduction in profits primarily because the hospital will invest $600,000 to upgrade customer service. The infusion is earmarked for housekeeping and emergency room staffing improvements, customer service training for all 325 employees, patient satisfaction surveys and the hiring of concierges.
Competition from medical centers in Indianapolis sparked the service strategy. About half Shelby County's 43,000 residents drive the 20 or so miles to Indianapolis for their healthcare needs.
"We can't compete on size, reputation or specialized programs," Lennen said. "But we can outperform them on service."
Despite the commitment, Lennen admitted "it is harder to instill this service culture than I ever imagined. We have effectively turned the world upside down for many of our clinical people."
When it came time to redesign an outmoded eye-care clinic in Rancho Cordova, Calif., Kaiser Permanente totally revamped the patient-care system. The clinic's service changes now are being copied by other Kaiser facilities.
Those changes -- including the hiring of more support staff and streamlining of the delivery process -- have resulted in lower costs of eye exams, shorter office visits and a marked reduction in the time it takes to book an appointment.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement notes that even though the patients spend less time with an ophthalmologist, "the frustrating on-again, off-again waiting time has been greatly reduced." Patient satisfaction scores have skyrocketed because the care is continuous and thorough.
After receiving some negative feedback, managers at Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette, Wis., discovered patient satisfaction can involve the little things, like the prick of a needle to draw blood or start an IV. Last year, the 116-bed hospital formed a venipuncture team to develop more patient-friendly methods. Enhancing staff training, combining tests to reduce the number of blood draws, upgrading equipment and discussing procedures with patients were among the process improvements.
South Bend, Ind.-based Press, Ganey, an independent survey firm that handles the hospital's patient satisfaction program, noted higher marks for blood draws and IV starts since the program started.
Three simple success stories with one simple theme: When it comes to service, management commitment and leadership make the difference.