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08 Oct

TBT: Are ancillary departments the key to an improved patient experience?

TBT: Are ancillary departments the key to an improved patient experience?

Having spent much of my career developing and implementing Ancillary services operations for Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs), I have a deep rooted appreciation for the impact these dedicated people can have on the patient experience. These support service departments can include:

Early in my career the organizational view of these departments was they are important but not mission critical. Today – there is a greater appreciation of the positive impact this group of departments has and in some healthcare systems they are referred to as Hospitality Services.

So what’s different today? HCAHPS focus on the experience and perceptions of the patient for one and the realization that perceptions can be influenced through good or poor service.  

30% of the HCAHPS questionnaire addresses the patient’s experience

100% is based on the patient’s perception of the care they received

Now think about your personal customer experience (I hope the purist will forgive the correlation of patient to customer) in any retail experience.  

  • Does it matter to you how you are treated?
  • What about the friendliness of the staff, their appearance, their willingness (or not) to help?
  • How about your ability to find your way to the purchase of your desire in a large department store – easy, difficult, frustrating?  

Similar components of the patient’s experience are also being evaluated and it is being discovered that in many ways the Ancillary departments are influencing and contributing to the perceptions established by the patients and their families.

If by chance you were a patient recently (hope all is well today if yes) were you:

  • Offered a “room service” experience for your food service similar to a hotel? 
  • Did the food service team member refer to him/herself as your host/hostess.
  • Was their uniform a little sharper maybe even having a formal flair?
  • When the housekeeping team provides cleaning services for your room did they enter with courtesy and a friendly greeting?  
  • As they were leaving the room did they offer to provide any additional service to make you comfortable – because they had the time?  How did they look?  Where they dressed in a commonly seen scrub uniform or where they dressed professionally and differently than the medical care team?

If you had this hospitality experience how did it make you feel? Or – more importantly - how did it shape your perception of the care you received?  

Here’s my point… Healthcare leadership’s understanding of the patient’s experience is evolving.  They are paying more attention to the many (and often more difficult to measure) subtleties that make up the complete experience.  The patient’s perception of the care received is their image and their brand and done well can contribute to their overall mission of care to the communities they serve.  Their evolution of understanding is also including the important role that the Ancillary department staff is playing in shaping the patient’s experience and perceptions through their actions, interactions and appearance.

Bottom line: Pay attention to those who pay attention to the detail…

Have you recently been to a hospital? Have you noticed changes through-out the facility to improve the patient experience – especially in the Ancillary departments mentioned above?  Comment below to let us know what you experienced.

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