January 2010
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In This Issue
Eulogy for Elliott
In the Best Practices... Spotlight on the Zangmeister Center
Q & A: Increasing Patient Compliance When it Comes to Exercise
User's Corner: Hours of Operation
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While the celebrations are over, we want to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year! This quarter, we
spotlight the Zangmeister Center's strategy for raising patient survey scores; tips for encouraging patients to exercise; and a regional comparison of patient satisfaction with hours of operation. We hope you also enjoy the heartwarming story of Elliott, one Pediatrician's "assistant."

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues - and have a terrific 2010!

- The SullivanLuallin Team

Eulogy for Elliott

This heart-warming article is written by Ann Troy, MD - a Pediatrician practicing in San Rafael, CA whose popular practice owes much of its allure to its canine physician assistant!

Golden retriever dogElliott was, to put it simply, the world's most wonderful dog.
He was evaluated as a puppy by Canine Companions for Independence who wanted to use him as a breeder.  Somehow he got neutered by mistake and they were devastated.  Their loss was my gain.  He was given to me when he was six years old.
Thus he began a new career as a physician's assistant in a pediatric office.  He was there to warmly welcome and reassure patients and their parents, to distract and comfort a frightened child, to cuddle up with while have a breathing treatment or waiting to lab results, and to make us all laugh and smile.
Elliott was so gentle I could trust him with a two week old baby and somehow their mothers knew it too.  Once he was standing in my waiting room with his mouth open and a toddler waddled up to him and stuck his hand and a biscuit into Elliott's mouth.  Much to our amazement, Elliott just stood there perfectly still!  He was the most patient, loving and gentle being I have ever known.
There were patients who would come to my office because Elliott was there - some of them even pretended to be sick so they could visit him!  The many drawings of him on my waiting room walls are a testimony to how important he was and how much he was loved.
Elliott died peacefully in my arms on September 10, 2007 after almost 13 years of living and loving life fully.  He is sorely missed - and loved forever.
In the Best Practices...
Spotlight on The Mark H. Zangmeister Center

It isn't easy to maintain survey scores when you're going through a major transition...it's even tougher to raise them!
"That's what confronted us as we consolidated four practices sites into one, in a brand-new building for our 13 Oncologists, 2 Radiation Oncologists, 170 staff members, and full diagnostic testing and ancillary services," says Glenn Balasky, Executive Director of the Center, which annually serves more than 10,000 patients in Central Ohio.
They did it well.  During the transition period, scores on the 33-question patient survey went up - 24 of them were significantly higher than in the previous period.  Overall, patient satisfaction rose 11.3% to the 55th percentile of the MGMA-SullivanLuallin Oncology database.
"We had to plan carefully," adds Tracey Wilcox, Clinical Operations Manager.  "Anticipating higher patient volume, we analyzed our work processes as well as people's performance, and modified strategies as we monitored work flow, staff deployment, and patient reactions to the changes."
Among the key tactics was an early-warning service recovery process.  "Knowing that patients become more loyal if their concerns are addressed quickly by people who really want to help, we used NotifyMD to give us better control over telephone communication, with automatic roll-over to a 'live' person with authority to resolve issues and find solutions."  A corollary effort involved working with receptionists who used recommended "scripts" to collect co-pays and annual fees required by their health plans.
The practice kept close watch on patient compliments, and established a system for letting staff members know that their extra-step efforts were appreciated.  As a result, several have received plaques naming them "Master in the Art of Caring," and competition for the award increases each month.
"People can adapt to change in minimal time," says Glenn, "if we anticipate what needs to happen, communicate well, listen to good ideas, and have patience as patients and their families come to accept new ways of providing patient-focused care and service."
We'd say they did a great job.  (By the way, do YOU have a recognition program for letting your superstars know they're appreciated? Tell us about it!)
Q & A: Increasing Patient Compliance When it Comes to Exercise

Some of my patients are significantly overweight and aren't very compliant when I suggest exercise.  Is there a way to get them to be more active?

Much depends on how you describe what you want your inactive patients to do.  An interesting study was reported in the April 13th 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.  The article noted that patients seem to make a distinction between doctors' orders and doctors' advice. For example, if a physician says, "Take one pill each morning," patients tend to adhere to the order.  However, if the doctor says, "You should cut down on sweets," they'll ignore the advice.  Further, the study found that if patients were given a "prescription" to exercise, more of them followed through.  Bottom line: if you want to have a better shot at changing behavior, treat your advice as if it were a prescription. Write the specific recommendation (i.e., "walk around the block once each day") on a prescription pad and hand it to the patient. 
Users' Corner:
Regional Differences in Patient Satisfaction with Hours of Operation

With the competition from Minute Clinics around the country, it's interesting to see which region has the highest perception of convenient hours.


SullivanLuallin specializes in patient satisfaction services, and is the premier healthcare customer service consulting firm in the nation. For over 25 years, we've helped physician practices implement Customer Service Initiatives that produce immediate improvement and ongoing results. Clients come to us for on-site and web-based Customer Service training, Shadow Coaching for low-scoring physicians, Mystery Patient/Mystery Caller assessments, and Customer Satisfaction surveys.