Is improving patient satisfaction scores one of your greatest challenges? You’re not alone. In 2002, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) partnered with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to develop and test the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey — the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ opinions of hospital care. Since then, HCAHPS has become one of the biggest determinants of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, as well as a critical indicator of overall patient satisfaction.
Any hospital rehab center worth its salt would want a top HCAHPS score, and improving that score is almost always a priority. Here are a few tips for hospital leaders who want to improve their ratings and protect their revenue.
Create a Patient-Centered Culture
Directives may come from the top of your organization, but change happens from the bottom up. If you want to achieve significant, sustainable HCAHPS improvements, you’ll have to make a positive patient experience an integral part of your culture. This culture must be driven by strong leadership, and you and other administrators will need to set the example by frequently interacting with patients.
Seemingly small changes can have significant effects, too. Sitting to talk to patients instead of standing, for instance, or taking the time to offer simple greetings to new patients, can lead to significantly higher satisfaction scores. Technical skills are the bare minimum for achieving positive outcomes, but if you can make these personable gestures the norm, your patients will likely report far higher overall satisfaction.
Patients want to be involved in their own health care, and patient-provider communication is one of the most important aspects of their satisfaction. For example, the HCAHPS survey asks patients:
How often nurses and physicians listened carefully to them
How often nurses and physicians explained things in a way they could understand
If hospital staff told them what their medicine was for
If hospital staff described possible side effects of their medicine
Communication may be even more important in the rehabilitation setting, where patients’ own efforts can make or break their outcomes. If they don’t understand the “why” behind their pain, their therapeutic modalities and the exercises you’re asking them to perform, their buy-in and compliance will be minimal. A few minutes of extra communication can make all the difference.
Collect More Data
One of the biggest problems with surveys is that you get the most feedback from outliers — patients who are extremely satisfied or dissatisfied with their outcomes, service and overall experience. To obtain an accurate picture of your patients’ satisfaction, you’ve got to collect as much data from as many people as possible.
Simply increasing your HCAHPS response rate isn’t enough, however. You want top scores on the survey itself, but improving those scores requires more targeted data collection on your part. For example, you might discover through follow-up calls that your patients find your plinths or chairs uncomfortable, or that they’re especially pleased with one therapist’s bedside manner. Once you pinpoint the biggest sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, your efforts to improve your scores can be far more fruitful.
Invest in Innovative Technologies
Finally, one of the best ways to improve your HCAHPS scores is to invest in innovative, research-backed technologies. Ultrasound, light therapy, E-stim and other cutting-edge modalities have gained significant praise and professional approval in the last decade, and patients have become far more educated on their benefits. With the widespread availability of health information — and with more and more states allowing direct access to PTs and other rehab specialists — patient satisfaction will increasingly depend on access to these popular modalities.