CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- Navigating the hallways in a health facility can feel intimidating to patients. They may not know where their doctor's offices are located or where to check-in for their appointments. These first moments can greatly set the tone for the rest of their visits.

To improve care, the SHAPE Healthcare Facility staff researched how to make the patient experience better and found that the experience was more than just what happened during appointments.

"We did a workflow analysis, and we asked ourselves 'How can we make things better for the patient?'" said Army Col. Yolonda "YR" Summons, SHAPE Healthcare Facility commander.

After conducting the workflow analysis and listening to patient feedback from the Interactive Customer Evaluation, or ICE, comments and Joint Outpatient Experience Survey, or JOES, reports, the healthcare team decided to establish a new patient reception area.

According to Summons, the new patient reception area, located in the front entrance, centralizes the check-in and check-out processes for patients. Patient services such as medical records, referrals and TRICARE are also now located in one area.

"The whole intent is to provide superior service," said Army Lt. Col. Amy Jackson, deputy commander for administration for the SHAPE Healthcare Facility. "All of those patient services are right there in the entrance. You don't have to wait in long queues. We centralized our medical support assistants to be at your service in one area."

An addition to the patient reception is a greeter who welcomes patients as they walk into the clinic and asks them questions in order to better direct their visit. "The greeter is asking patients if they have an appointment and what the appointment type is. The greeter will let the patient know if they need to sign in at the front or walk straight to the clinic's office," said Jackson.

Jackson further added the new check-in process is applicable to U.S. primary care, physical therapy, readiness appointments and telehealth appointments. Patients going to other nations' clinics will not need to check-in at the patient reception area. They will follow the same check-in procedures as before.

Some U.S.-led clinics will require patients to check-in only at the office such as behavioral health, optometry, lab, radiology, and immunizations. When in doubt, the patient can always speak to the greeter first to ensure they are following the right procedures.

AVAILABLE RESOURCES

Patient care is not just limited to what happens in the SHAPE Healthcare Facility. Jackson wanted patients to become informed on how to take charge of their health.

As mentioned above, the SHAPE Healthcare Facility staff listens to patients' feedback. Patients can fill out ICE comments either at the health clinic or online. They also complete a JOES questionnaire if they are randomly selected by the system. The survey can be filled out either online or submitted via mail.

TRICARE beneficiaries can also utilize TRICARE's patient portal at https://www.tricareonline.com. The website allows beneficiaries to make appointments, see lab results, submit refill requests for prescriptions and get access to their medical records. Jackson wanted to highlight that the website also lets patients send secure messages to their primary care provider and their staff.

Jackson further emphasized that the SHAPE Healthcare Facility staff strives to maintain excellence in providing patient care.

"We are maximizing the scope of practice at each level. We want to enhance the care at each step so each medical provider is focused on what they should do," said Jackson.

"We want to take care of the community. Any time, anyone can give us really specific and honest feedback, it helps us."

For more information on the SHAPE Healthcare Facility, go to http://rhce.amedd.army.mil/SHAPE/.