SMH earns high mark

Published 12:09 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

Southampton Memorial Hospital emergency department employees pictured are Alice Stutts, left, Sarah Smith, Sara Lee, Annie Griffin and Kay Woolridge. Their efficient and courteous work contributed greatly to the hospital earning fifth in Emergency Department Patient Satisfaction scores for the fourth quarter of 2010. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS


FRANKLIN—An increased attentiveness to patients and a continual striving toward efficiency have earned a high mark for Southampton Memorial Hospital.

The Franklin hospital in the fourth quarter of 2010 ranked fifth out of 130 facilities in the Community Health Systems for emergency department patient satisfaction, said Anne Williams, director of marketing for SMH.

The patient satisfaction survey began with the hospital’s overall customer service plan three years ago. The scores have improved steadily since, Williams said.

For example, patients were asked to judge the emergency department on a scale of zero to 10, with the best being 10. Seventy percent gave a 9 or 10 rating. This is an 8 percent increase from the third quarter. The corporate level is 61 percent.

The dissatisfaction level was 5 percent, a 10 percent drop from the third quarter.

Sixty-five percent said they would recommend the emergency department to family and friends, which is a 9 percent increase from the third quarter. Three percent said no, a four-percent decrease from the third quarter.

Dr. Susan Boyle, medical director of the emergency department, said

Health Stream Research quarterly conducts phone surveys of patients released from the hospital.

Annie Griffin, director of the emergency room, said the review is done up to 14 days after a patient is released. The hospital also does its own follow-up within 24 to 72 hours.

Some of the questions include whether the patient was treated with respect and kindness, satisfaction with the amount of time spent with the attending physician, how often the staff checked on the patient, and what was done to make the person feel comfortable.

“Customer service is pretty much standard for any ER department to survey customers on where we can improve,” said Boyle.

One of the steps taken is to treat the patient as soon as possible. Previously, triage was done, she said. This step is a way to prioritize treating patients based on the severity of their condition.

“Now we bring a patient back to the ER as quickly as possible, and we’re doing everything as a team at the bedside,” she said.

Further, the waiting time for a doctor is decreased.

“We also implemented the Studor Group, a national organization that works toward patient and customer satisfaction,” said Boyle. “We’ve always taken good care of our patients. Southampton Memorial has worked with them (Studor) to improve the approach of the physicians and nurses to the patient.”

“We’re always trying to improve our processes, not just ER, but also lab and radiology, to be as efficient as we can be,” she added. “Certainly there are times we can’t immediately bed patients. It always depends on what else is going on. In the ER, we try to communicate with the patients. Communication is really the key.”

Boyle said she thought that one of the reasons for low marks in the survey came from patients who waited longer than they thought they should.

“Most often they tend to be the ones who are the least emergent qualified or have the less severe presentation,” she said. “Their complaint is not as urgent as we treat the more severe. We have to prioritize.”

But overall, “We have a terrific group of physicians and nurses committed to our patients and our community,” she said.

“We are very proud of our emergency department team. They have worked extremely hard in integrating urgency with professionalism and quality of care,” said Phil Wright, the chief executive officer. “Our wait times as well as our length of stay have decreased and it shows in these scores. We want our patients to have an experience such that they feel compelled to ‘Definitely Recommend’ us to others.”