January 2012
Improving the pat experience

In This Issue
Patient Satisfaction in an EHR world...
In Best Practices...
Q & A: EHR Implementation
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Hello again, and Happy New Year! We hope your 2012 is filled with joyful learning, abundant opportunity and success.  In this edition, we share simple techniques to improve the patient experience while transitioning from paper records to an EHR system; spotlight Kaiser Permanente's strategy for welcoming new patients; and provide tips to help senior doctors embrace the shift from paper files to EHR.  


Please feel free to pass our newsletter on to your friends and colleagues. 


Patient Satisfaction in an EHR world...


Conventional wisdom has it that when a practice implements a new Electronic Health Record (EHR), patients complain about delays, the loss of physician eye contact and staff attention. As a result, say the pundits, satisfaction scores plummet.


Interesting, though, studies prove otherwise. A recent article appearing in the Permanente Journal authored by Vivian T. Nagy, PhD and Michael H. Kanter, MD analyzes the patient satisfaction scores of Kaiser Permanente physicians in a large medical center in Southern California before and after the organization implemented HealthConnect, the group's electronic medical record system.


Results of the study showed that there were no statistical differences in patient satisfaction scores either while the system was being implemented or even five months after the HealthConnect installation.


How can a practice ensure that while an EHR is being introduced, patients remain solid supporters of their physicians and other practice personnel? Easy.


Here are just a few of the many techniques shared with providers in a new SullivanLuallin workshop, "Maintaining Patient Satisfaction in an EHR World," that hold the key to patient support and understanding in what might be a difficult transition from paper to electronic records.


1) Introduce the EHR to patients as a benefit to them. Let patients know that you're using a new tool that gives you (the doctor) access to their medical records and history in "real time." The new technology also helps share information seamlessly with other doctors and pharmacies.


2) Provide as much "voice contact" as eye contact. As you interact with the computer, give a verbal running description of what you're doing so patients understand. For example, if you're looking up the patient's last cholesterol level, talk your way through the process, and read the results to them. One Minnesota cardiologist, at the end of every encounter, turns to the patient and says, "Now I'm going to tell the computer everything we discussed today." He then takes a few minutes to document the visit while the patient is still in the exam room.


3) Share what's on the monitor with patients so they feel engaged in their care. Show the mom her child's growth curve, or the senior patient his last LDL results. Nothing is more gratifying to a patient on a weight loss regimen than to see a graph line showing pounds lost descending each visit.


4) If you're just learning to use the system, be honest! After you explain how the system will benefit patients, tell them that you're new at the process and ask for their patience as you work your way through the visit. Patients want you to succeed and will be supportive of your efforts. To lighten the situation, one physician remarks to patients, "The only class in high school that I didn't get an "A" in is the one class that I use every day. Typing!"

With the right training, focused on practical techniques for enhancing physician/staff-patient interaction during the EHR implementation phase and beyond, satisfaction scores needn't decline. In fact, with just a little preparation and positive reinforcement for providers and staff member efforts, patient satisfaction scores can increase among patients who see your practice as technologically advanced! (For more information regarding our, "Patient Satisfaction in an EHR World" workshop, click here!)

In Best Practices... 


As a new patient at a medical practice, it's always gratifying to feel welcomed with open arms.  One of our SullivanLuallin employees recently experienced this firsthand at the Kaiser Permanente, Point Loma (CA) medical office.  Upon checking in, the receptionist kindly welcomed her, acknowledged her as a new patient, and handed her a green tote bag with the Kaiser Permanente logo and theme - "Thrive" --  as a token gift.  This idea (or something similar) is a great strategy for making a positive first impression on new patients.  They'll feel special and know that you've gone the extra mile in welcoming them to the group!

Q&A: EHR Implentation

 Q.  We're getting ready to implement an EHR system and some of our senior doctors are apprehensive about their ability to handle the change.  Are there any tips to make the transition easier?


A.  According to Rosemary Nelson, a member of the Medical Group Management Association consulting bureau, it helps to set up a buddy system.  In other words, pair up doctors or nurses with another member of the team who has proficiency in a particular function.  That individual can be the "go-to" person for quick questions or advice.  In addition, says Rosemary, round on physicians who may be struggling.  She suggests that you "be available" so that doctors or others will ask questions on the spot rather than waiting (and stewing!) until they can find you later.  If it's not you who does the rounding, appoint someone else who will.


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 Patient Satisfaction surveys.
Dr. Alt