5. Focus on patient experience
Ultimately, improving patient access is part of an effort to improve the patient experience. We recognize that even if patients have access, they won’t return to the clinic for future care unless they have a positive patient experience.
SHC uses national surveys to benchmark itself with the aspirations of achieving 90th percentile in the “Likelihood to Recommend” question. Several of SHC’s 75 clinics are above that 90th percentile mark, and others continue to work toward that goal. These results provide excellent opportunities to learn from one another and determine how to duplicate these results at other facilities.
But we’re not content to rest on our laurels. Once we reach a goal, we set higher, even more ambitious standards for ourselves. There are always ways to make healthcare easier to access, raise the overall experience, and opportunities to improve patient outcomes.
Recent areas of focus have included a focus on:
- Reducing clinic wait time: Efforts have been made to decrease the check in time through improvements in flow management and prepping as much as possible in advance of the visit.
- Informing patients about delays: Providers and medical assistants huddle twice daily to determine appropriate patient hand offs. We’re also trying to inform the patient of any delays longer than 10 minutes. Adding provider wait boards in the lobby, similar to the flight schedule at airports, set realistic expectations for patients with regards to potential delays for a scheduled visit.
- Sensitivity to patient needs: Every patient has unique needs, and it’s important to document what those needs are. One patient may need an interpreter through the language line while another patient may need more time to discuss his/her concerns with a provider. Some patients prefer a more formal approach to care with definitive care plan while others want an informal, inquisitive, heard-it-from-the-internet kind of dialogue and exploration of the best care plan. Regardless of the approach, customizing care to the patient’s preference is key to improving the experience and ultimately satisfaction.
The access journey continues
It is our job as healthcare providers to identify and effectively forecast patient access challenges. Dyad partnerships among clinical and nonclinical leaders are needed to facilitate successful change. Creating a standard workflow in a step-by-step format and scheduling guidelines creates consistent, reliable outcomes while reducing patient errors. Our creative and innovative approach proves that this can be done without breaking the bank.
At SHC, we have created an integrated strategic plan with our inpatient and outpatient partners that is human centered and discovery led. Three overarching strategies that we think will drive our focus in the years ahead include emphasizing high-value care, realizing the promise of digital health in care delivery, and investing in the areas that have defined Stanford Medicine as a pre-eminent institution.
To achieve those strategic goals, our leadership has placed a renewed emphasis on better access through improving workflows, refining metrics, aligning resources with outcomes, and learning from one another. We’re guided by SHC’s compelling vision, “To heal humanity through science and compassion one patient at a time.” Our vision is more than a statement: it guides and inspires us every day to do our best to meet patients’ needs.
We believe that focusing on these 10 areas toward improving patient access is the right way to create the future of healthcare that we wish to see.
Michael O’Connell, MHA, FACMPE, FACHE is senior vice president of operations at Stanford Health Care’s University HealthCare Alliance. Previously, Michael worked as a consultant with The Advisory Board Company in Washington, D.C., and in leadership roles for health systems, hospitals, and medical groups throughout the Midwest. He serves as chair of the MGMA-ACMPE Certification Commission.