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New project focuses improving the ‘patient experience’

July 17, 2014

Yale Medical Group (YMG) will roll out a clinical optimization program that will identify opportunities and strategies for increased efficiency across ambulatory practices, and ensure the implementation of the practice standards.

In conjunction with this effort, YMG is looking beyond the limited time a patient spends in the exam room to create a consistent, well-choreographed “patient experience.” That includes booking the appointment, finding a parking space, sitting in the waiting room, and knowing what steps to take once the appointment is over.

“The patient experience is extremely important,” said Babar Khokhar, MD, MBA, a neurologist who has been leading this effort since his appointment two months ago to the newly created position of director of ambulatory services “Patients experience a great deal of anxiety with a new medical diagnosis, and this can be heightened when trying to navigate our complex health care system. We hope to reduce this anxiety by at least making their visit go smoothly.”

Fred Borrelli, COO of YMG, and Marie Follo, director of practice management, are working with Dr. Khokhar on the project, which will involve visiting practices in the coming months to observe daily clinic workflows, meet with clinic staff and providers, review referral and scheduling processes, and assess clinical and administrative support.

“We know we won’t be successful just talking to the physicians or the managers,” Dr. Khokhar said. “We also want to get to the employees who are doing the function. They do their jobs every day. We want them to tell us what works, what doesn’t work, what changes might help. We’re going to do this in each clinic.”

Making all aspects of the visit helpful

Phone protocol, website maintenance, and signage are three important areas. “A patient’s first interaction with us is one of two places, either a phone call or the website. We need to make these ‘pre-visits’ helpful,” Dr. Khokhar said. Signage should be clear and consistent wherever a patient goes within YMG, he added. “We’re going to follow the patient’s path. Where are they going and what are they seeing?”

One aspect of creating a top-notch patient experience is to make sure it is as consistent as possible throughout all YMG areas, as well as YNHH, and other clinical areas, Dr. Khokhar said. “I’d like to have a patient experience that’s similar not just inside YMG, but throughout Yale. Patients don’t know the difference between YMG, YNHH, Northeast Medical Group, or any of the Yale entities. Everything is Yale to them.”

Once the initial survey is complete, he will present the findings to YMG’s Operations Committee and make recommendations. Once they get approval, he and his team will assist with implementation of the recommendations, and then provide ongoing support and feedback.

Passion for improving patient care

Dr. Khokhar, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale for the last two years, is chief of the Division of General Neurology, and director of the neurology outpatient clinics. His clinical interests include general neurology and neuromuscular disorders, and he runs the ALS/Motor Neuron Disease Clinic. He completed his medical degree and MBA in health care management at Tufts University School of Medicine. He joined the Yale Department of Neurology after completing his neurology residency and fellowship in neuromuscular medicine at YNHH and the West Haven VA Medical Center.

Fred Borrelli, COO of Yale Medical Group, said, “Dr. Khokhar is the best person for this role because he has the passion, creativity, and commitment to make health care better for patients, employees, and physicians across Yale Medical Group. He is uniquely qualified to inspire others to make a difference in the lives of patients during their visit to a Yale Medical Group outpatient facility. He recognizes that it is imperative for Yale Medical Group to not only consider our problems, but more importantly, to identify and study the causes for our successes so that we can duplicate them across the practice.”

Submitted by Mark Santore on July 17, 2014