Service with a Smile-Sloan Initiative Helps Weill Cornell Neurosurgery Raise Patient Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Many patients know the frustration of rushing to a doctor's appointment, then sitting in a waiting room as they watch the minutes tick by. Maybe they make it straight to the exam room--rand then wait there without so much as a magazine for distraction. But what if someone popped in and offered them a cup of coffee? Or apologized for the wait, said the doctor was on an emergency call, and offered them a pager so they could take a stroll and get buzzed when it's time for their appointment?

That's the kind of innovative customer service that Sloan Program in Health Administration students, under the direction of associate professor John Kuder, have helped introduce to the Department of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC). The partnership was formed in 2008 with a modest goal: putting some hospitality back into the hospital.

"Hospitality isn't limited to a particular industry," said Richard Paddy, WCMC neurological surgery department administrator. "The health care setting is a place where it should exist."

Paddy admits that it's hard to make major invasive procedures, like brain surgery, "hospitable." But between a patient's initial visit and an operation, there are myriad interactions with clinicians and support staff; much can be done to make the journey as pleasant as possible. Hence Paddy's efforts to set a "platinum standard" for patient care with guidance from the College of Human Ecology's Sloan Program and the hospitality gurus at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration.

Weill Cornell doctors in neurological surgery typically see 5,000 new patients a year, of which about 2,000 are surgical cases. The department has 11 surgeons, 10 "physician extenders"--such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants--and 37 support staff. Paddy said that patient feedback on customer service surveys in the past was above average, but not ideal. Since they've introduced the customer service program, however, those surveys are improving. …