Hints for Higher HCAHPS Scores

Posted on February 11, 2014


"Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems" survey (HCAHPS), even the acronym is a mouthful! No wonder hospitals are in a quandary about how to use HCAHPS survey results to improve patient satisfaction scores. But quandary or not, there's little time for debate.

Today, low scores not only threaten your hospital's ability to gain - or even maintain market share - they can result in a lack of reimbursement. Under the current value-based purchasing program, a hospital may even face financial penalties if its scores are too low.

As your hospital takes steps to attain sustainable patient-centered excellence, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Know it all: Before you can effectively improve your HCAPHS scores, you need to "know what you need to know." For example:

  • What are your hospital's strengths and gaps, based on patients' perception of the care they receive?
  • What units are performing at a high, low or mid-range level?
  • What specific, measurable goals (and stretch goals) do you want to achieve and by what dates?

Communication could be your differentiator: The better you are at clearly communicating - and listening - to your patients, the better your chances of receiving a higher score.

  • The HCAPHS survey includes several questions related to how well doctors, nurses and other staff explained things to a patient and how well they listened to the individual.
  • Today, consumers expect to receive safe, quality care from whatever hospital they choose. No difference there. But … effective communication could help your CAH stand out from your competition.

Don't overlook key influencers: From the nurses who provide care to patients every day of their stay to the environmental service workers who clean patients' rooms - frontline employees are integral to the patient experience. Be sure to:

  • Share survey results with frontline staff. This will help them understand the importance of their role and align their behavior with your hospital's patient-centered focus.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in keeping employees motivated to continue the journey to excellence.

Above all, don't let the nebulous challenge of "improving patient satisfaction" overwhelm you. You can start by zoning in on specific areas and "quick wins." Here's one to get you started:

Some hospitals have found that when doctors sit down to talk with patients vs. standing, it positively affects a patient's satisfaction score. This simple nuance gives the impression that the doctor is less rushed and more focused on the individual patient.

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