Yale Physicians Building works to boost patient satisfaction

Managers want to empower staff so the positive feelings will reverberate

YMG spotlight poster

Yale Medical Group staff show off a new stoplight poster. Pictured (l-r) are medical assistants Karyn DeChello and Louise Wallace, clinical receptionist Tashuala Cuttino, and David Cusick.

If the staff is happy, the patients will be happy.

That’s the idea behind the Yale Physician Building (YPB) initiative to boost its patient satisfaction scores. One of the first things administrators did when they launched the initiative last month was to ask staff members what they needed, then they quickly responded to requests. They ended up providing: a new printer to replace one that was jamming; a new clock; short-sleeved white shirts as part of clinical receptionists’ summer uniforms; and a scheduling system that helps avoid overbooking.

The initiative primarily targets staff members who work with patients, particularly the 32 clinical receptionists and medical assistants in the building’s Yale Medical Group (YMG)-managed practices.

“What we are doing is going around to the staff and basically empowering them, and giving them a sense of responsibility and a feeling of autonomy, so they are able to make decisions and help drive the team forward. It’s based on making them ‘owners,’ rather than ‘renters,’ and giving them a feeling of pride in their place and their jobs,” said YPB clinical manager David Cusick, RN.
David Cusick and Johanna Torres

David Cusick and Johanna Torres are talking to staff about their needs as part of their patient satisfaction initiative.

A variety of approaches

Cusick and YPB practice manager Johanna Torres have been working on the initiative with YMG’s director of practice management, Marie Follo. Their approach has three parts:

  • Leadership rounding: Administrators collect information from staff on coworkers they’d like to recognize, equipment issues, ideas for working smarter, and other matters. “We engage the staff and let them know that we understand their needs,” said Torres. “This lets them know that we care what their thoughts are.”
  • Stoplight report: Updated every two to three weeks, the stoplight is displayed on posters in staff lounges. It depicts a green light for leadership rounding requests that have been completed; a yellow light for works in progress; and a red light for requests that simply can’t be managed.
  • SharePoint site: A virtual bulletin board that will make its debut in June, the Microsoft SharePoint content management site will be a place to go for information such as hand washing initiatives, vacation schedules, save-the-dates, and photos of staff events.

The stoplight includes a red light to let staff know that administrators take every comment seriously, even if it is something they are unable to manage. An example was a request to expand the revolving door to the building. “We can’t do anything about that, but we did let Marianne Dess-Santoro (chief operating officer) know about it. We wanted our staff to know we took it seriously,” Torres said.

Karen Messina, who has worked as both a clinical receptionist and a medical assistant in the building, said the leadership rounding helps by giving staff members the chance to meet one-on-one with an administrator to air their thoughts or raise an issue. “If you’re uncomfortable saying it in a meeting in front of everyone, you can say it one-on-one. You don’t have to say it in front of everyone. They give you an opportunity there.”

Four areas every practice should tackle

While every practice may be unique, all have things in common. Among them are the four areas that YPB especially wants to address. Cusick and Torres said practices that do well in these areas tend to do well overall. They include:

  • Willingness of staff to recommend their practice
  • Informing patients of delays
  • Courtesy of front desk staff
  • Courtesy of checkout staff

They will be tracking progress by keeping a close watch on patient satisfaction scores, and plan to post scores and comments for staff, every month. They expect real progress to take time, but they already see positive signs. “The printer was a big complaint, and when a new printer showed up, staff members noticed. That showed them we do care, and that they can speak up and make a difference,” Torres said.