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A transformed ED experience

Wellstar Health System’s leadership is always looking to improve the customer experience in their hospitals’ emergency departments. As they were searching for ways to optimize focus areas, they wanted more concrete data—delivered in a timely fashion—to inform their decisions, drive actions, and validate results.

Wellstar leaders found a wealth of this data in NRC Health’s experience solutions. Using NRC Health’s rapid and reliable feedback processes, Wellstar’s leaders were able to:

  • Design a throughput process that sped up patients’ access to care
  • Focus on specific initiatives that boosted patient experience
  • Hone a communications protocol to give patients clarity and confidence
  • Improve their overall would-recommend score by 5% in just one year
  • And more
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Wellstar Health System, a large multi-hospital health system in Georgia, serves a broad community. The organization’s long history of outstanding care has earned it a well deserved reputation for clinical excellence. Wellstar leaders are always focused on continuous improvement, including patient experience in the emergency department.

For many organizations, improving the ED experience presents a formidable challenge. Large volumes, varying acuities, and the traumatic nature of many admissions leaves providers in a difficult position; in such an environment, there is always opportunity to deliver world-class patient safety and customer service.

To continue providing efficient, high-quality care with an outstanding customer experience, the Wellstar team needed the right data at the right time to better identify specific opportunities for improvement.

They found that data with NRC Health’s automated patient-survey capability.

“Wellstar’s mission is to enhance the health and well-being of every person we serve, and a core value is to honor every voice. NRC has allowed us to hear patients’ voices with more clarity, and in real time.”

Freda Lyon, DNP, RN, System Vice President of Emergency Services, Wellstar


NRC Health’s automated patient-survey capability reaches 100% of patients within 48 hours of their care episodes. A significant improvement upon traditional paper surveys, NRC Health reaches patients where they are—using modern modalities like email, SMS, and interactive voice recognition (IVR) technology.

Aside from accelerating response times, these innovations also improve response rates, giving leaders robust, instantaneous insight into their organizations’ performance.

Perhaps even more important than the quantitative data, however, is the qualitative data the survey secures. By using open-ended feedback questions, NRC Health solicits patients’ candid thoughts on their experience. These comments offer providers specific points for improvement—or meaningful moments to celebrate.


After deploying NRC Health’s experience solution, leaders could turn their attention to patients’ comments more quickly. This helped bring specific points for improvement to light to be addressed more rapidly.


One recurring theme in Wellstar’s patient feedback was the desire to reduce wait times. NRC Health data showed a significant correlation between long wait times and underwhelming experience reviews. Leaders deployed additional tactics to address the problem:

  • To drive a fundamental shift in the mindset, they changed the name of the organization’s “waiting rooms” to “lobbies.” This helped drive a mentality shift among both staff and customers, and helped diminish the idea that a long wait was to be taken for granted.
  • At appropriate volume levels, Wellstar initiated a “straight back” policy, streamlining the process from check-in to seeing a provider. This entailed improvements in patient triage, faster admissions paperwork, and a separate line of service for low-acuity patients.
  • Finally, Wellstar implemented a technological solution that they called a Virtual Lobby. Given the option, customers were much happier to wait in their cars or elsewhere on the hospital campus than inside. In the future, patients will be able to check in from their phones, and then wait for their provider outside the hospital.


Consumers in the Wellstar service area, like many consumers throughout the country, expressed hesitation about returning to see their providers during the pandemic. They worried that healthcare facilities would present an increased risk for contamination.

NRC Health insights and custom surveys helped estimate how many consumers held these perceptions. Knowing the numbers helped the Wellstar team size up the challenge and take actions to address consumers’ concerns. As one example, this helped accelerate the planned expansion of Wellstar On, the Wellstar virtual-care app.

“The number of responses, the specificity of the data, and the quick turnaround times allowed us to try new tactics and immediately see the impact of what we’ve done.”

John Kueven, SVP, Hospital President, Wellstar Paulding Hospital


A final area for improvement was an all-important one: provider communication.

Visiting the emergency department can be a traumatic and confusing time for patients. NRC Health data revealed a few ways that Wellstar’s providers could further bring compassion and clarity to their patients.

Leaders first developed a series of communication training tools to help ensure that in-the-room conversations were kept consistent. Wellstar integrated a texting platform into its electronic health records, which now keeps the patient and their family members up to date on conditions as they develop.

Wellstar also plans to deploy On My Way (a service offered by MyChart) to help patients proactively communicate with their providers before arrival at the care location.

“Using what we learned from NRC, we were able standardize our approaches to communication and our up-front processes. Patients got to see and hear what they needed, and get the quality care they came for.”

Freda Lyon, DNP, RN, System Vice President of Emergency Services, Wellstar


Taken together, these initiatives have had a measurable impact on patient experience in Wellstar’s EDs. Would-recommend scores improved by 5% in just one year—a rate of improvement well above industry benchmarks.

Wellstar leaders intend to keep using NRC Health’s patient feedback data to continuously improve their patient experience.

“I don’t think we could have made the improvements we’ve made in our patient experience if we didn’t have our partnership with NRC.”

Freda Lyon, DNP, RN, System Vice President of Emergency Services, Wellstar


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