Award-Winning Ambulatory and Urgent Care Providers Reveal Their Patient Satisfaction Secrets

John C. Leal

John C. Leal , RN

Nurse Manager
Timothy Shortnacy

Timothy Shortnacy , PA-C

Physician Assistant, Kaweah Delta Health Care District

Published January 20, 2017

In a bid to reduce overburdened EDs and connect patients with follow-up care, hospitals are increasingly turning to ambulatory and urgent care (AUC) centers.

To succeed in their mission, these centers must be patient pleasers. But that can be a tall order during flu season when the waiting room is overflowing. What's more, providers may have only a few minutes to establish rapport with patients they're meeting for the first time.

Wowing patients under these circumstances is difficult, but certainly not impossible. In fact, one Vituity-managed AUC center, Sequoia Prompt Care in Visalia, Calif., recently took home a national award for patient satisfaction excellence. Here's how they did it.

The Human Effect

Sequoia Prompt Care provider Tim Shortnacy, PA-C knows many of his patients by name.

If he doesn’t, it’s likely that he knows their parents, grandparents, children’s friends, or even their neighbors.

It helps that Shortnacy lives a mere five minutes from the facility and that he’s been with the Kaweah Delta Health Care District for years.

More importantly, however, he genuinely loves his job. And he transmits that compassion and sense of mission to every patient he sees.

As a result, Shortnacy manages to make the bustling AUC center located in the sprawling Central Valley of California feel like a family practice.

So when the facility was recently given a national Excellence Through Insight award for patient satisfaction, Nurse Manager John Leal approached Shortnacy and said, “Tim, this is your award.”

The award came from HealthStream, a national health metrics vendor that Sequoia Prompt Care uses to gather patient satisfaction data by phone. Excellence Through Insight recognizes the facility in each category that achieves the highest satisfaction scores for the year.

In addition to employing beloved providers like Shortnacy, the team has implemented a number of services and processes at the six-year-old facility to ensure that patients are not only satisfied with their care but will continue to use the AUC center and recommend it to others.

Satisfaction On the Spot

Sequoia Prompt Care opened in 2011, the second of three AUC centers in the Kaweah Delta Health Care District. (The first was Kaweah Urgent Care Center. The third was Sequoia Prompt Care-Akers, which opened in 2014.)

While Shortnacy has worked hard to forge personal relationships with patients, the episodic nature of AUC means that most providers are strangers to the people they care for. For this reason, the team guessed correctly that small personal gestures would go a long way toward fostering loyalty and satisfaction.

Beginning day one, at the behest of their Vituity medical director, the Sequoia Prompt Care providers have made post-visit callbacks to 100 percent of their patients. This provides an opportunity to check in and ensure patients received the care they needed. The center's staff sends get-well cards, too.

Once in awhile, a visit doesn't go as smoothly as planned. In those cases, the staff is prepared. Their secret weapon: a "service recovery binder" stocked with gift cards, gas cards, movie tickets, and other tokens of appreciation.

“If a staff member feels that, ‘Hey, I messed up,’ or ‘Hey, it’s my fault that I caused a delay,’ they don’t need to call me,” says Leal. “All they do is give the person a gift card, fill out a quick report, and do service recovery in the moment."

Personal gestures mean a lot to patients. But the team knew that alone, those gestures wouldn’t be enough. Because if there's one thing sick and injured patients want to avoid, it's the waiting room.

Eliminating the Wait

Since opening, Sequoia Prompt Care has offered QuickPass, a service provided through third-party vendor ClockwiseMD.

Here's how it works. Patients first navigate to the Sequoia Prompt Care website, where wait times for both facilities are displayed in real time.

Patients can then check-in to the center online and reserve a room. This allows them to do their waiting at home or work. A staff member calls when the room is ready. Upon arriving, the patient is taken straight back, bypassing the waiting room completely.

Patients who use QuickPass don't have to worry about catching something from other patients in the waiting room. The experience is also less stressful, as every minute spent waiting at the facility can feel like an eternity.

Even patients who don’t utilize QuickPass are moved to the treatment area as fast as possible. "I always tell staff that patients don’t want to be in lobbies, they want to be in rooms," Leal says. "I’m an advocate, because if my kid has a fractured ankle I don’t want to be sitting here in the lobby having somebody throwing up right next to me.”

“I learned that from Vituity,” he adds. “They’re big champions of direct bedding in the ED.” (Leal previously worked alongside Vituity providers as an ED nurse at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.)

After a visit concludes, QuickPass texts patients and asks them to rate their experience on a scale of 1 to 10. Scores of seven or lower get a callback from the provider to find out exactly what happened and how the patient feels things could have been handled better.

Keeping the Ball Rolling

In addition to compassion and efficiency, the Sequoia Prompt Care team works hard to keep staff and provider morale high. “I will always thank my staff in front of my patients,” says Shortnacy, who believes that satisfied team members tend to satisfy patients. “That sort of affirmation is contagious."

They need that positivity to keep the momentum going. In a way, winning a national award is just the beginning.

“It takes a lot of work to get to where we’re at right now," Leal explains. "But I think the hardest work is to maintain where we’re at and not to slide back down. That’s going to be our true challenge. But with our nursing leadership and our collaboration with Vituity, I think we’ll be able to achieve that.”

Partnering to improve patient lives

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