Improving HCAHPS (the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores is essential because it will reflect in the overall rating for your hospital or medical clinic by Medicare. Because this rating is publicly reported on Medicare website’s Hospital Compare page, it poses a risk of losing your prospective patients to your competitors. Not just that, a lower performance on HCHAPS scores can put 2% of your practice’s reimbursement at risk.
Here are the 10 tips that will help physicians improve HCAHPS scores for their medical practices:
Improve Nursing Experience:
The HCAHPS questions deal more with your patients’ feelings about their stay. And because nurse courtesy and care is majorly responsible behind those feelings, that’s where you need to focus on priority. Important aspects of a great nursing experience include:
- Courtesy and respect
- Careful listening
- Providing satisfactory explanations to things
- Instant responsiveness
Nurses generally have a good bedside manner; however, they can lag behind because of the modern, highly demanding, and fast-paced medical services. By holding small separate sessions focused on improving different aspects of nursing care, you can educate and guide your staff better.
Develop a Proactive Care Approach:
Many patients reported not getting helped immediately when they pressed the call button. With a country wide shortage of nurses, and an overall high workload on them, this is highly possible. The best way to counter this situation is to lower the frequency of call-button presses.
Nurses at the Utah’s Surgical and Treatment Unit (SSTU) developed a highly proactive approach of providing care. They anticipated patient needs, and then followed a set of procedures which included listening reflectively, helping patients keep their phone fully charged, and telling them exactly what time they would return. It showed positive results – their nurse response time improved by lowering the frequency of call. It also helped them improve their HCAHPS scores by 20-30%.
Build Creative Relationships with Patients
HCAHPS is based on perception and providers need to be creative and forward thinking to build a strong relationship with their patients. One way to do that is interacting and engaging with patients in the hospital premises by having some arrangement like a group therapy. Other way is to interact with them off the premises through healthcare digital marketing.
A Healthcare marketing specialist agency can help you by providing your patients convenience, and the ability to make an appointment with ease. Going digital allows you to exercise a greater level of freedom in devising ways in which you want to connect with your patients and build a long-lasting relationship with them. It starts on shaping a positive perception about you before even they’ve visited you.
Keep Patients Involved & Informed:
Value-based purchasing in healthcare has changed the way patients look at healthcare. Patients now want to be involved into and informed about everything related to their care. It also gives providers a chance to keep educating their patients throughout their (patients’) stay in their facility.
Educate your patients at every interaction with them; at the first appointment, before and after surgery, during your check-ups, when they get discharged, and even post treatment through social media, mails, text messages or patient portal. Involve them by helping them acquire good lifestyle habits for long-lasting benefits. The goal should be to empower your patients with pertinent information, and providing them with tools to get them feel great about your way of treatment. Their satisfaction will improve HCAHPS scores for you!
Involve Nurses in Strategy Considerations:
As your nurses are on the front lines and can more readily identify existing barriers to improved care, your strategy considerations to improve HCAHPS scores should also include the participation of nurses.
Make the HCAHPS discussion part of every regular staff meeting. Don’t just impose your rules. Rather, get feedback and ideas from nurses too and incorporate them into your practice. Remember that most part of HCAHPS questions deal in assessing nurses’ behaviors and actions towards providing quality care to the patients, so you shouldn’t also lag in any way in improving your nursing care.
Manage Patients’ Pain Smartly:
No matter how good a treatment you provide, if you can’t relax your patients in terms of their pain, you can’t expect them to be fully satisfied. However, you should avoid having your patients depend on prescription pain pills for improving your HCAHPS scores as we already have evidence that HCAHPS may have a hand in opioid epidemic in America. HCAHPS has taken these into consideration and has (just recently) updated the current pain management questions (12, 13, and 14) to focus on the hospital’s communications with patients about the patients’ pain during the hospital stay.
The questions should address whether alternative methods of managing pain were offered or provided to the patient, including multimodal pain care, which includes non-opioid analgesics, regional analgesia, and non-pharmacological methods of pain relief in addition to opioid medications.
Design a high-quality pain management system that ensures appropriate assessment, family input, and include non-pharmacological therapies. A regular pain evaluation and reassessment will also help in catching a deteriorating trend before it’s too late. The more involved you are with trying to solve your patients’ pain problem, the more satisfied they are going to feel about you.
Prioritize Mobility for Patients:
Most of the hospitals do well in making patients’ access to bathroom or bedpans easy. This is also visible in their improved HCAHPS scores. Hospitals or clinics who do not consider these a priority should also start working on it now.
If cost barriers restrict you from improving on the infrastructure immediately, you can schedule patients’ bathroom visits and provide them the needed assistance on fixed time. This will go long way towards boosting how your patients will assess your service.
Reduce Ambient Noise Level:
One of the major questions in the HCAHPS survey that consistently earns the lowest satisfaction scores is about the noise levels during night time. Ringing phones, beepers, and overhead paging are the most common and consistently appearing sounds heard 24/7 in hospitals. A loud level of noise not only disrupts the healing process but also unsettles and irritates your patients. You can ask your staffs to switch off the phones and use text based systems in place for any sort of information updates. Your patients will highly appreciate this.
Impress Patients with Cleanliness:
Cleanliness isn’t just about a bright and a clean-looking hospital space, sterilized medical devices, and clean meal trays, etc. It’s also about having a culture to keep clean where even doctors and staffs can also be seen washing their hands, putting on fresh gloves just before procedures. Apart from these, a decluttered hospital space which allows improved mobility is also something your patients will admire and appreciate.
Talk About Future Care with Patients:
Since 3 questions related to continued help or discharge information shows up in HCAHPS survey, you need to make sure that your hospital representative discusses post-hospitalization help with patients in detail. These could be about symptoms or health problems to look out for, lifestyle changes, written medication details, or about when to call the hospital for help.
Apart from all these strategic level tips which require considerable time and effort to get enforced, here are some immediate execution level tips to improve HCAHPS scores on which you can start working today:
HCAHPS survey questions provide multiple choice answers in the form of Never, Sometimes, Usually, and Always, and the percentage of respondents to the “Always” questions is the only score publicly reported on the Hospital Compare website. This means that you have to perform nothing less than excellent on all the fronts (mentioned above) for improving your hospital’s overall rating by Medicare.
Ajay Prasad is the Founder and President of GMR Web Team, a leading healthcare digital marketing agency. He guides small and medium size healthcare practices/businesses in customizing their online marketing strategy, focused on building a loyal base of patients and improving their patient acquisition. Ajay believes in an improved patient experience as the key to successful healthcare business, which can be accomplished with the right marketing plan in place.