UTMC’s new director of patient satisfaction discusses goals

November 9, 2010 | News, UToday
By Jon Strunk



The University of Toledo Medical Center is among the nation’s leaders in medical care, ranging from some of the fastest emergency cardiac care to the lowest mortality rates. It’s the job of Ioan Duca, the new director of patient satisfaction, to coordinate the highest level of customer service to match the center’s level of care.

“Patient satisfaction is the job of every single employee. Ioan will be instrumental in helping us organize our efforts to help put patients and families at ease during a time that is inherently stressful,” said Dr. Scott Scarborough, interim vice president and executive director of UT Medical Center, and senior vice president for finance and administration.

Duca has much experience in hospitality services, having spent most of his professional career in leadership roles at Hilton Hotels Corp., Marriott and the Ritz Carlton. Most recently, he served as director of service excellence at the Oakwood Healthcare System in Michigan. Duca said much of what he’s learned in the hotel business translates directly to health care.

He took a few minutes during his first week on the job to answer some questions for UT News:

What’s the most important thing when it comes to improving patient satisfaction?

Realizing that is the only way to do business! Patient satisfaction is not a destination, but a continuous journey. We all own patient satisfaction; we all should continuously commit ourselves to the highest of standards while keeping each other accountable to delivering nothing else but the finest of a healing experience for all walking through our door each and every day. The bar is raised higher by our customers, and we are asked to deliver.

What do patients and families expect of UTMC?

Above all, patients and their families expect the UTMC staff to always provide them with a great healing experience. This type of an experience is what I like to refer to as being all-inclusive, because everyone plays a critical role in the creation and delivery of it. It starts with the first encounter that a patient or family member has with us the moment that they set foot on our campus, regardless of the point of entry, and it continues throughout the entire time they are on our premises. The expectations that our customers have of us are exactly the same expectations that we would have of others, given a role reversal. It should be outstanding each and every time.

What are some of the strategies available to improve patient satisfaction?

Identifying what’s of importance to our customers and then using that to guide the way that we service their specific health-care needs day in and day out is one of the key strategies that has yielded positive patient satisfaction results in health-care settings around the country. At the same time, from an organizational point of view, positioning patient satisfaction as one of the top key strategic goals and maintaining the focus around it is of paramount importance. It rallies an organization around the patient, acknowledging that his or her voice is heard and that the daily work processes of an organization are built and deployed with the patient in mind. Equipping the staff of an organization with the appropriate customer satisfaction tools and methodologies in order to deliver on expectations is equally important.

How will you initially evaluate what’s working and what needs to be improved?

Beginning Nov. 10, I plan to take the next 30 days conducting a comprehensive UTMC patient satisfaction cultural audit structured around people, data and processes. I will be doing a lot of listening while identifying the UTMC patient satisfaction strategies, tools, systems, metrics and initiatives currently in place. I plan to meet and listen to management and employees from all areas of the hospital. After that, I will shift my attention to the design of a comprehensive patient satisfaction strategy and customer service program for the organization. By equipping and engaging staff at all levels of the organization, we will create a memorable health-care experience for all of the patients and family members walking through the doors of UTMC.

What role does employee job satisfaction play in patient satisfaction?

Employee engagement is very important to the process of efficiently delivering superior customer service. I view job satisfaction and employee engagement as two inseparable components of one performing his or her duties in a proficient way. One cannot have one without the other. Engaged employees have passion for what they do and show it in the daily interactions with patients and fellow colleagues.

Given where we are at today, how will UTMC know if we are improving the satisfaction of patients and families?

Currently, there are at least two major indicators to show us the rate of our patient satisfaction improvement. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports on a regular basis the results of the government-mandated patient satisfaction survey, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (HCAHPS). This survey is sent out to a representative sample of discharged patients soliciting their feedback on their recent health-care experience at UTMC. This data is then compiled and reported publicly and can be accessed via the web. The second indicator is also in the form of a patient satisfaction survey being mailed out by the NRC (National Research Corp.) Picker Institute. The data received from the returned NRC Picker data is also compiled and utilized to measure our progress. Our focus is to improve the overall patient satisfaction at UTMC, which will translate into increased publicly reported UTMC HCAHPS scores, financial outcomes and increased market share as indicated by best practice and experts in the field across the country.

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