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Making Amends
Vouchers for parking, meals, gas and gifts put right situations that go awry.

blank Rebecca Zuccarelli has made a career out of tracking patients’ pet peeves.
  Rebecca Zuccarelli has made a career out of tracking patients’ pet peeves.

Patients arriving at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for surgeries that ended up canceled used to receive a shrug and a new surgery date before being sent home. Now, with a renewed emphasis on customer satisfaction, patients are offered a sincere apology and more.

“We want to show that we recognize that this person and a companion may have taken the day off work, so we’ll comp their parking for today, and again for the date of the new surgery, or offer a $10 gas gift card for their inconvenience,” explains Rebecca Zuccarelli, senior director of service excellence for the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Along these lines, Zuccarelli’s team has been rolling out to hospital inpatient units a series of “service recovery kits,” boxes containing vouchers for parking, meals, gas and the gift shop that nurses can dole out as necessary to make amends. And, the Department of Surgery has extended its visiting hours for friends and family, with some units permitting 24/7 access.

Measures like these, implemented over the past two years, have dramatically increased patient satisfaction scores in surveys conducted by national health care consultant Press Ganey. The hospital has moved from the 20th to 30th percentile of hospitals surveyed up to the 70th percentile. Among academic medical centers, Hopkins now ranks in the 80th percentile.

Zuccarelli and colleagues track survey results online in real time, as Press Ganey uploads data daily. While patients may still complain about wait times, she says, other factors are ranked much higher, and there are frequently handwritten comments praising hospital staff. Her team also can analyze the data by individual nursing unit, so they can tell those that are performing well and those that might need assistance. That information is shared through a monthly score e-mailed to hospital leadership.

“The organization has learned to use the survey feedback as an important management tool,” Zuccarelli says. “We’ve shown we can make improvements, and there is a science to this.”

Zuccarelli now has her sights set on improving satisfaction among patients visiting the Outpatient Center and physician offices: “I see this as the front door. If people can’t get appointments or they’re kept waiting, they’re not going to come back.”

— Karen Blum



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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