Darnall earns its highest patient satisfaction rating
October 28, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas--Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center earned an overall patient satisfaction rating of 93.5 percent for September, its highest on record, according to the monthly Department of Defense and Army surgeon general's Army Provider Level Satisfaction Survey (APLSS).
Darnall's high rating exceeded the current Southern Regional Medical Command average and moved the medical center into the fourth place ranking out of 11 others in the region.
"It's a significant achievement for us, as Darnall's APLSS rating typically hovers around 88 percent. In the short time since I've been here, I'm so impressed with everyone's commitment to making Darnall the premier healthcare system in America. Everyone's embraced our motto of providing 'compassionate world class healthcare one patient at a time' and this accomplishment is proof-positive that we mean what we say," said Col. Patrick Sargent, CRDAMC commander.
APLSS surveys are mailed to randomly selected patients approximately one to two weeks after their visit. Patients are asked to assess satisfaction with the provider and services at Darnall and their level of overall satisfaction with the entire visit, from making the appointment to the delivery of care.
More than 10,000 surveys are sent to Darnall beneficiaries in a month and 800-1,200 responses are received. Results from the surveys are analyzed for specific comments and trends. Reports are provided every month to the hospital commander, individual clinic and department chiefs, customer service, and administrative officers. In addition, all providers have access to their own scores and verbatim comments.
While 93.5 percent is significant, the goal is to continue providing excellent customer service and meeting or exceeding the MEDCOM recommended goal of 95 percent, according to CRDAMC's Customer Service Division Chief, Kim Reed.
"For the most part, we do well on customer service, as the number of complaints we receive is not comparable to the number of patients we see on a daily basis. But we're always working on ways to improve our customer service throughout the medical center," she said. "Customer service is just common sense--to treat people how you want to be treated. It can be challenging to remember the basics, especially in our fast-paced environment, but that little bit of effort can go a long way."
One initiative implemented to improve customer service is the "Customer Service Champions" training program, a part of the Surgeon General's Culture of Trust initiative. In August, customer service role models from each clinic attended a "Back to Basics" training seminar taught by a customer service expert from the Army Surgeon General's office. Using the "train-the-trainer" concept, Reed's goal is to have everyone in the hospital trained by mid-November.
"It is excellent training. I've had similar training in the area of patient care and concern, but this training was above average," said Corey Harvey, care coordinator from the CRDAMC Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Services department. "It focused on building a strong foundation of trust within your team, which will then have a positive domino effect on patient service. I also liked the instruction and guidance on how to recover any trust broken during the patient's visit. Regardless of the problems that may arise we can always implement the 'Recovery Service Steps' to get things back on track."
Gaining patients' trust is not always an easy thing to do, especially under extremely stressful situations, but Charlene Roberson, a nurse in the Emergency Medicine department, works hard to keep her cool when helping patients.
"I know that patients coming to the ER can be really stressed and frustrated. But no matter how upset they get, I stay calm and empathetic. It works every time as the patients end up apologizing and thanking me for my concern," she said.
Roberson's efforts, along with others in the department, have paid off as the ER increased its individual overall patient satisfaction rating to 93 percent for September.
As another effort to enhance the patient care experience, Reed added that they have formed a Customer Service Process Action Team which will identify problem areas and initiate changes for improvements.
The biggest challenge to customer service though, is that "we can't change what we don't know," according to Reed.
"It's so important for patients to provide us with feedback. We need to know how they feel about their providers, the services at the hospital and clinics and access to their health care needs," she said. "Everyone needs to fill out an ICE comment card--good or bad. If you receive an APLSS survey, please take the time to fill it out."
In addition to giving the medical center essential feedback, the APLSS surveys provide another important incentive. The Army Surgeon General rewards military treatment facilities for both the number of surveys their patients return and the percentage of patients who rate their visit as completely satisfied. The hospital can also lose money from its operating budget if its averages fall below a certain percentage.
Providers and leadership at Darnall do look closely at the data from the results of all surveys returned. Comments are posted on the website and printed in the newsletter (with patient permission).
"We take every comment seriously," Sargent stated. "We've already made some changes and improvements based on feedback we received from patients. Your comments help us to make a difference."
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