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Improving the Patient Experience

Improving the Patient Experience

By Beth A. Allen

Many exams in medical imaging don’t take very long. Often, it takes longer to park the car outside the facility than to have your X-ray done. This is not much time to make a good impression, but plenty of time to make a bad one.

Customer service comes more easily to some people than others. We have all witnessed those team members deliver hospitality that just comes naturally. They can effortlessly ease a patient’s anxiety and deliver a patient experience that earns that tech rave reviews in the comment section of the patient survey. This kind of interaction can be too friendly for some patients.

Others may have a different personality type. While they are able to perform the exam with just as much expertise, if not more, the personal interaction does not come as easily. They are not rude or cranky, they just relate to patients with necessary information only.

There isn’t a right way for every patient. The important part of the interaction is to make sure that we are communicating all necessary information in a manner that is efficient, friendly and professional. Patients come to us in all different moods. We have no way to know what challenges they are dealing with today. We need to meet them where they are, assume good intent and be patient.

AIDET is a method of communication that was developed by the Studor Group as an outline for health care professionals to follow. The acronym AIDET stands for Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation and Thank You. A quick Google search for the term will produce quite a bit of detail about how institutions have used this format. Whether the personal side of the business of health care comes naturally or not, it serves as a checklist to make sure that we have communicated all pertinent information in an efficient, professional and cordial way. It also allows us to thank the patient for choosing us to participate in their imaging care.

When a technologist calls a patient into a room to perform an exam, it is important to remember that this space is like home to us. We come here every day. The equipment that we use day in and day out is often scary and intimidating to a patient. The information that we repeat over and over is new to the person we are speaking to. If we invite the patient into our space like we are inviting them into our living room; treat them with the respect and care that we would hope our family would receive by introducing ourselves and explaining what is going to happen; then thank them for spending time with us, it is a game changer. The patient should be escorted out. No pointing to a sign that shows them where the exit is. Patients should not be wandering around the facility, which is a safety and HIPAA hazard.

Over the years, I have been a part of many different patient experience initiatives. They all come down to respect and communication. I review the comments from our patient surveys each week. It really unlocks the code. I have identified the key to the course: be on time. Over and over, I see a comment about whether or not we met the expectations of how quickly the patient was called back for their exam. Fortunately, most of the comments are positive but patients really let us know they do not like it if we are running behind. A large percentage of people that leave a comment have something to say about whether we hit the mark here or not.

Due to many different scenarios, we are not always able to be on time. Equipment fails. We don’t have the information required when the patient arrives. Some patients just need more time than others to complete the exam. It is important that when that happens, we acknowledge the obvious. Communicate that we are behind and when the patient can expect to start the exam. This may not entirely fix the issue; people don’t like to wait. It will at least give them an expectation, so they do not just assume we forgot about them.

It really comes down to the basics.

Be on time, if at all possible. Communicate if we are not.
Be efficient, but don’t rush.
Listen.
Be nice and smile (even behind your mask).
Thank you for all you do.

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