Improving patient satisfaction scores, such as CAHPS, is key for driving reimbursements and practice reputation. Doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities with high patient satisfaction see a correlation with high CAHPS scores and redeem many benefits from these rankings. High patient satisfaction scores usually result in higher reimbursement payments from CMS (the government organization that is tasked with strengthening and modernizing America’s healthcare system), better patient retention rates, and the assurance for staff they fostered a positive experience for patients. CMS also uses CAHPS scores to inform its star ratings, which are publicly available ratings about the quality of healthcare facilities.
Because CAHPS surveys are used for both reimbursement and patient rating purposes, it is important for healthcare organizations to improve their scores. Healthcare organizations can improve their CAHPS scores by understanding what is important to patients, what the surveys measure, and how to meet patient needs.
Typically, the beginning sections of CAHPS surveys focus on communications between patients and their healthcare staff (nurses, physicians, etc.). These questions ask whether nurses and physicians communicated clearly with patients and whether patients understood their diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment options. Some CAHPS surveys also ask patients whether nurses and physicians treated them with respect and empathy. While being mindful of cultural norms and barriers, clinicians must tap into their interpersonal skills to provide compassionate care to their patients.
Unfortunately, healthcare facilities often fall short in this respect. One study found that 40% of low-income patients have walked away from appointments feeling disrespected. The CAHPS surveys were able to successfully identify a disconnect in patient satisfaction. Healthcare organizations should support their staff in attempts to best communicate with patients. Some examples of best practices for enhancing provider-patient communication include; holding office seminars, work with patients to develop interpersonal skills, and educate staff on best practices.
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Improving Healthcare Setting/Environments
CAHPS hospital surveys have a section about the hospital environment; including cleanliness and noise levels. To maintain a clean and sanitary facility, organizations must support their custodial staff and reinforce the importance of a healthcare facility being clean. It would make sense that patients rate hospitals poorly when they cannot get good sleep or rest and have the additional stress of noise added to the already stressful situation of being sick. High noise levels in hospitals are the factor that scores lowest on HCAHPS scores nationwide.
Healthcare facilities can go further by taking into consideration patient wants and needs in a room. Some hospitals are working with patients to design rooms that will facilitate a more comfortable experience.
Expediting Discharge and Patient Follow-Up Processes
CAHPS surveys ask patients about how doctors and nurses managed continuous care and their discharge process. The survey asks whether clinicians checked in on post-discharge care plans, made it clear which provider will follow-up with ongoing needs, and whether that care will be adequate for the patient’s condition. Hospitals that implement family caregiver engagement and discharge plans may see not only increases in CAHPS scores but in quality of healthcare, as well.
The importance of improving patient satisfaction can ultimately heavily rely on CAHPS scores. And in addition to CMS value-based reimbursements and hospital ratings published on the CMS website, many healthcare organizations also use these scores to inform their own internal practice improvement processes.
About the Author:
PatientX is a healthcare marketing company that specializes in helping care providers create better patient experiences. While placing an emphasis on the patient experience, PatientX works with members of the healthcare industry to achieve higher standards of patient care and satisfaction, and helping them achieve their goals of growth and success.