3 Patient-Tested Improvements to Increase HCAHPS Score

In early July, my mother was admitted to ICU. She has since finished rehab at a transitional care unit (TCU) and is now home.  This experience and the recent release of the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores has me thinking about what providers, patients and patient advocates can do to improve the experience. Triple Aim

For those of you not familiar, the HCAHPS are significant for two reasons:

First, results are used by Medicare to determine payment for each hospital.

Second, HCAHPS are a measure of patient experience, which along with health of a population and per capita cost make up the framework for optimizing health system performance known as the Triple Aim.

So, what did we learn from the recent HCAHPS scores?  Quality of care and outcomes are dominant metrics and significantly affect a provider’s score but there are three key “soft skill” areas hospitals can focus on to improve scores:

1. Improving employee engagement.  Recent data from The Advisory Board Company (a provider education and resource tool) showed that for every one percent increase in employee engagement an organization’s overall score increases by 0.33 percent.  In the point-based system that is HCAHPS, increasing employee engagement by 10 percent, which translates to an HCAHPS increase of 3.3 percent, is like Usain Bolt shaving a full second off his 200 meter dash.  This increase can also mean the difference between two and three stars in a four-star rating system.  An “engaged employee” is one who has or is:

2. Meaningful engagement with patients.  So much of HCAPS is based on the patient’s own perception of the care they received.  E.g., “Did your provider always explain what the medications you were given were and why were you were taking them?”  “Did you always receive help when you needed it?”  In addition to affecting HCAHPS scores, negative word of mouth and online comments from dissatisfied patients and families are likely costing your hospital revenue.  So, what can providers do to improve consumer perception?

3. Think human-centered healthcare.  Whether a person thinks of themselves as a “consumer” or a “patient” depends on where they are in the care continuum.  If you consider that most Americans spend more time researching a refrigerator than they do choosing a doctor, as actual consumers of healthcare, we have a long way to go. How do you make sure you’re there, ready to “greet” healthcare consumers when they arrive?

How do you think hospitals and providers could improve your assessment of them?   What role do you have? Do you have a personal care story to share?

Also, check out how CMS rates your hospital, in this interactive map.


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