Outreach Quality and Satisfaction – The Patient’s View 


Outreach

The laboratory interacts with patients between four and five times more than any other service line in a healthcare organization. This means that the laboratory outreach program has a tremendous opportunity to influence the patient’s overall impression of the organization.

Managing and maintaining a quality experience for the patient can define the success of a laboratory outreach program and influence how that patient perceives the organization overall. A satisfied patient may seek out other health system services, such as imaging, pharmacy, or physical therapy. Conversely, a dissatisfied patient may choose another organization for future care and may also share their dissatisfaction with others.

From a laboratory patient’s point of view, there are several important, qualitative points of contact that directly impact engagement and satisfaction, including: 

  • Access to information about the laboratory, its services, and its accessibility.
  • The patient’s experience at the physical draw site, including the phlebotomy procedure.
  • Access to test results, including timeliness and clarity.
  • Satisfaction with fees and billing processes.

Patient satisfaction can also be linked to increased payments at the institutional level. For example, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Triple Aim suggests optimizing health system performance through pursuing three aspects: improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improving population health; and reducing the per capita cost of care across a community of care. Another example can be found within the Medicare Shared Savings Program for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), where quality performance is linked to reimbursement. The very first ACO quality measure listed (among 33) is getting timely care, appointments, and information.

The laboratory can play an important role in improving payments for the overall organization through:

  • Improving patient satisfaction and facilitating a high-quality experience.
  • Providing timely care with low wait times.
  • Offering appointments with a range of available times.
  • Providing access to information (hours, locations, pricing, and test results).

Neither the IHI nor the CMS program initiatives contain measures that are specific to the laboratory. However, there are significant opportunities to enrich the patient’s experience, particularly as health systems continue to integrate providers and outpatient ancillary services, including laboratory services.

For an outreach patient, the phlebotomy experience is usually the only face-to-face interaction that the patient has with the laboratory, so it is often the only laboratory activity by which patient satisfaction is gauged. Patient satisfaction surveys are a valuable tool, however, the standardized survey tools used by health systems rarely address the laboratory experience specifically. Therefore, it is best to use a survey that is specific to the patient’s experience with the laboratory.

Consider asking the following questions to assess patient satisfaction regarding outreach phlebotomy:

  • The laboratory staff was professional and courteous.
  • I did not wait longer than I thought was reasonable for my services.
  • All my questions were answered to my satisfaction.
  • I was satisfied with how my blood was drawn.
  • The location and hours of the service center were convenient.
  • The service center was clean and neat in appearance.
  • I easily found accurate directions and hours of operation for this center online.
  • My results are easily accessible online.

As healthcare continues to evolve and payment models become more inclusive of patient satisfaction measures, it is vitally important for laboratories to focus on improving the patient experience. Because the laboratory is a critical element in the continuum of care, the outreach program provides a necessary mechanism to enhance the patient experience and provide strengthened relationships in the future.

Jane Hermansen (@jhermansen)

Jane Hermansen

Jane Hermansen is living her childhood dream of being a laboratory professional. With a passion for community-based medicine, she has worked with hundreds of hospitals across the US in outreach program development and growth. She currently directs the outreach consulting activities for Mayo Clinic Laboratories.