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Professionally attired staff linked to collections boost
'They don't get any resistance'
New, professional-style uniforms for access staff at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills have apparently had a dramatic — and very positive — effect on the facility's upfront collections, says patient access supervisor Mike Vanderbilt, CHAM.
Although he has no scientific data to prove the connection, Vanderbilt adds, he is convinced that the new apparel is behind the new willingness of patients to pay upon request. It replaces much more casual "scrub attire," which consisted of "thin, clingy unisex pullover tops with scrub jackets and anything except denim on the bottom."
The numbers speak for themselves, Vanderbilt notes. "We went from $80,000 in cash collections in December to more than $150,000 in February and March."
While patient access representatives "used to always get resistance" when asking for payment at the time of service, that is no longer the case, he says. "The new clothing has changed their attitudes, the way they interact with people, and their confidence level, especially when it comes to collecting money."
Now that the employees asking for their money are wearing suits, the public's perception of them has changed, Vanderbilt suggests. "The staff feedback is 100% that they don't get any resistance."
The new uniforms were inspired by an extensive renovation that substantially changed the lobby and entryways of the 150-bed facility, he says. "It went from a typical waiting room atmosphere to a nice hotel lobby atmosphere."
As the staff observed all the changes going on around them, Vanderbilt adds, "they started saying, 'Are we going to get fixed up, too?'" After receiving "a lot of group input" from the employees, the department leadership put a plan in motion.
Vanderbilt's vision for the new attire was to create an impression of "total class, total professionalism, so that when visitors and patients come into our facility, they won't have experienced anything like it."
The decision was made to go with black business suits — including several choices of shirts and jackets — appropriately styled for men and women, he says. The shirts and blouses are in a light shade of blue, Vanderbilt adds. "The ladies have a scarf and the men have a tie that ties in with [the colors of] the lobby and our web site. It looks almost like we branded it."
The final touch, he says, is a silver lapel pin in the design of the hospital logo.
Emergency department registrars wear a more casual variation of the same theme, he notes, including a nice quality polo shirt with an embroidered logo. Because of the demands of bedside registration, Vanderbilt says, those employees wear sneakers, while inpatient and outpatient reps wear dress shoes.
Employees who work in central scheduling, because they are not face-to-face with the public, continue to wear their own choice of professional attire, he says
All full-time access reps were given four sets of clothing with an option to purchase a fifth on their own, Vanderbilt notes.
"The first week we rolled out [the new uniforms], people were almost gawking," he says. "Administration, employees from other departments were coming down to look."
Other hospitals in the Adventist Health System, to which Florida Hospital Zephyrhills belongs, have expressed interest in obtaining uniforms for their own access employees, Vanderbilt says.
"It's been extremely positive," he adds. "Based on region and hospital size, [a uniform program] may or may not help, but in our case we needed it badly."
(Editor's note: Mike Vanderbilt may be reached at Mike.Vanderbilt@ahss.org.)