I have been in radiology management for more than 26 years and involved in many customer service initiatives. From my interaction with patients and referring physician offices, I have compiled seven strategies to help improve your imaging practice. These strategies have helped me improve my operations.
1. Use the Five Pillars outlined by the Studer Group to guide your operation: people, service, quality, finance and growth. Having a successful operation in today’s health care environment requires aligning your goals in these five areas. Keep these five pillars in front of your staff by using them as the agenda for your staff meetings. My staff meeting agenda has the topics of discussion listed under the appropriate pillar.
2. Communicate outcomes to your patients and referring physicians. You need to be able to differentiate your operations from your competition. Quality is going to become a key driver not only with Medicare but also with insurance companies. Quality also makes your operation efficient.
3. Timeliness is everything. In today’s “we want it now” society, timeliness is important to a successful operation. Referring physicians want easy accessibility in patient scheduling and want accurate results in a timely manner. It is human nature to take the path of least resistance so facility access is important. In addition, patients want to get in and out of their appointments in a timely manner.
4. Develop a culture that is welcoming, compassionate and assuring. When patients come to your facility they expect competence. The one item they do not expect is rudeness. Make each patient feel as though they are the most important person by being welcoming and compassionate to their situation. Assurance makes patients feel safe and better about their care. When I send out the monthly email regarding the previous month’s financials, I thank the staff for providing welcoming, compassionate and assuring care. I want to keep those three words in front of them on a consistent basis.
5. Keep a pulse on what your patients are thinking about your service. Patients are our key to improving service. Suggestions and complaints are golden. Keep patient comment cards highly visible at all times. Sometimes suggestions are so easy to implement. I had patients comment that they did not like listening to the news on the television and suggested music instead. The solution was easy: a call to the cable company to add the music channels to my subscription.
6. Make safety a priority; it’s something employees and patients expect the minute they walk through our doors. It only takes one major incident to plummet your operation into a tail spin. Patient engagement is critical to patient safety. Typically, no one knows their medical history better than the patient, and staff must take the time to slow down and listen.
7. Be visible and engage your staff. Staff engagement is very important to the success of any company. An engaged staff increases retention of front-line employees and that results in better customer service. Staff that feel good about themselves produce good results by doing the right things. Not only is replacing staff expensive, it also disrupts continuity of care. Referring physicians and their office staff like consistency with their referrals. They don’t want to be routinely dealing with different staff. In terms of human resource cost, it costs and estimated three times a person’s salary to replace them.
Jim Lipcamon, BS, RT(R), is outpatient imaging services manager for East Cooper Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant, SC.