William Beaumont Army Medical Center's Patient Assistance Office recently kicked off a program to measure quality of outpatient encounters and provide immediate feedback to providers, clinics and other hospital staff.
The program, similar to retail-industry mystery shopper programs, entails patient advocates randomly questioning consenting patients who have recently completed a medical appointment at any of WBAMC's primary care or specialty care clinics.
"The intent is to give patients the opportunity to give us (immediate) feedback of their experience, positive or negative," said Thomas O'Dea, patient advocate, WBAMC. "From the beginning of their appointment to the end, we want to know what they thought."
Patients have always had an opportunity to provide feedback concerning their experiences through traditional means such as Interactive Customer Evaluations (ICE) comments and the Military Health System's recently launched Joint Outpatient Experience Survey (JOES). Outpatients can expect a JOES survey a few days after appointments and may return the survey via mail or electronically.
In addition to allowing patients to provide instant feedback, the mystery shopper program allows for WBAMC patient advocates to correct or address concerns on the spot.
"We want (patient's) information, their name, phone number, so that if we do get a negative feedback we can address the situation and that's where we want to go with it, we want to be able to reach back to (the patient)," said O'Dea. "It's to add that personal factor to (patient's experience), and the survey can provide us with a lot of good information, such as: are we doing the right thing, are we becoming complacent, that feedback is valuable overall for the organization as it carries over to JOES."
The Military Health System's patient satisfaction survey, JOES, assesses outpatient beneficiary experiences at Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) allowing the MHS to compare results to the civilian benchmarks. Patient advocates plan to launch a similar mystery shopper program directed at inpatient experiences to supplement the TRICARE Inpatient Satisfaction Survey (TRISS), aimed at gauging inpatient experiences.
Providing high-satisfaction rated feedback on surveys like JOES and TRISS also impact medical operations directly through monetary incentives for increased medical resources such as staff and equipment as well as patient amenities such as recent mobile device charging stations available in select wait rooms.
For patients such as Sgt. Emmanuel Rivera, customer service is essential to meeting objectives.
"It's not about doing the job faster but improving customer service," said Rivera, a culinary specialist with 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. "Good customer service helps keep customers."
As an employee in the food service industry, guest relations are essential to daily operations for Rivera, who says he'd prefer to give instant feedback on his experience over waiting for a survey.
According to O'Dea, patients can provide feedback on any part of their WBAMC experience, from the first interaction while making an appointment to picking up any prescribed medications at pharmacies.
"It begins with first interaction with our facility which could be the appointment line, whether patients couldn't get through (to schedule an appointment) or if there's a certain number that is not working. We'll alert those who can fix it," said O'Dea. "It's the whole experience, until they finish. We're excited about it. We care about your experience and we care about our facility."
Primary care clinics throughout the WBAMC footprint will also participate in mystery shopper surveys. For more information, contact WBAMC the Patient Assistance Office at 915-742-2692.