A Culture of Leadership: How Can You Enhance Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS Scores?

Aug 28, 2017 | Healthcare Industry, Knowledge Center, Leadership

As the healthcare system has become more complex and sophisticated over the past several decades, the need to move toward an outcomes/value based approach has become central to a hospital’s operational success.

A critical indicator of patient satisfaction is HCAHPS, or Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. This survey measures a patient’s perception of the care they receive at hospitals. Nearly 8,000 adult inpatients (excluding psychiatric) in the United States complete the HCAHPS survey every day following discharge. The scores are now being used to calculate incentive payments for hospital reimbursement. Within this new framework, hospitals could be penalized financially for low HCAHPS scores.

The Effect on HCAHPS Survey Results

The HCAHPS results are publicly reported, so any negative feedback can be detrimental to a reputation. When evaluating your survey results, keep these six points in mind:

  1.  Patient satisfaction leads to customer loyalty.
  2. A positive reputation leads to improved patient retention. If one patient is satisfied, the information reaches four others. If one patient is dissatisfied, the experience can spread to ten people.
  3. In a study conducted in Voluntary Hospitals of America, nearly 70% of patients were willing to pay more money if they are able to choose a quality physician. Increased staff morale with reduced staff turnover also leads to increased productivity.
  4. The higher the patient satisfaction, the lower the risk of malpractice suits.

In the past, the healthcare industry hasn’t been held to the same standard as hospitality, but as patient satisfaction continues to become a more popular metric, hospital rewards and penalties will be affected. The financial impact of HCAHPS is also applying more pressure on healthcare leaders to explore ways to improve their scores.

1. Encourage employees to think about purpose, not just function.

An employee in medicine has functions on a daily basis: giving injections, changing linens, filing paperwork, the list goes on. But what about the reason they have jobs in the first place? An employee who is focused on the reason why they get up every morning will feel empowered to share their passion through hospitable actions towards patients, their families, and colleagues alike. Maintain a culture filled with a staff who is adamant about what’s most important at the end of the day… taking care of people.

2. Make patient experience improvement a priority.

A positive experience starts with a culture the hospital leaders create and encourage. Decide what values you want to exhibit, train the staff to adopt those values, and increase interaction levels with patients and families. Additionally, it’s important for leaders to educate the staff about what HCAHPS scores are and the impact they have on their workplace. This knowledge will improve mindfulness and accountability throughout all departments.

3. You can’t provide the best patient experience if you don’t hire properly.

When a candidate with the right technical background applies for a position, don’t immediately jump to an offer extension. Not everyone belongs in a healthcare culture. Try behavioral-based interviewing during the screening process to evaluate if a candidate would be a good fit.

4. Reduce unnecessary ambient noise.

One topic addressed in the HCAHPS survey is about the room noise level at night, and is usually the lowest earning score. Quiet and calm environments are crucial to the healing process. Instead of relying on ringing phones and beepers, consider switching to the HIPAA-compliant texting platform.
Streamline staff communication.

5. Interactions between doctors and nurses is important when ensuring a positive customer experience.

They must communicate frequently and effectively by filling each other in on all details of diagnoses, treatment and care following discharge so the patient has clear and thorough instructions.

6. Understand patients’ time sensitivity.

One of the first thoughts to come to mind when someone says “doctor’s office” or “hospital” is the dreaded waiting room. This point goes back to tip #5 – utilize efficient communication tools to avoid any wasted time on the floor. A patient who waits an hour for their appointment won’t be afraid to speak their mind!

7. Keep patients informed.

Every interaction with a patient is an opportunity to educate them about their condition, medication, care following discharge, etc. Any changes in care can be uncomfortable for some patients, so keep them aware every step of the way to ease any anxiety. Empower them with all the information they need to get better.

In summary, extraordinary patient care requires impeccable communication, attention to detail and a particular attitude. Every patient should be given 110% – no matter what. Make it your goal to ensure consistency because at the end of the day, positive change begins with the leadership. What improvements are you going to tackle first?