Although every hospital strives to offer the highest level of care, most advanced technology and over-the-top experience for their patients, in most cases it’s just not possible due to budgetary constraints. The good news is that a large budget isn’t necessarily a requirement for a positive patient experience and high HCAHPS scores.
With a concentrated effort and some training, hospital management and staff can increase patient satisfaction without lavish expenditures. Recent publications suggest that by following these simple yet effective strategies, you can achieve your goals of improving patient satisfaction and achieving higher HCAHPS results, a win/win for everyone involved.
1. Communicate Clearly , Listen and Respond
Good communication is highly praised by patients and can make a significant difference in an HCAHPS survey, as several questions address this topic. Being in the hospital is stressful and can be confusing. When doctors and nurses take the time to sit and communicate clearly, patients can understand and feel confident about their treatment plan. Implementing the policies below can improve the patient experience both in the hospital and after discharge.
- Communicate both written and verbally, offer time for patients to ask questions, repeat their questions back to them and respond immediately
- Provide interpreters when needed
- Conduct follow-up calls after discharge to answer questions and solicit feedback about their experience
2. Educate Patients
Even though doctors and nurses provide expertise, they may not have enough time to pass along all of the information a patient may be looking for. Utilizing alternative educational methods to supplement the one-on-one interactions can help in this endeavor.
One option recently brought to market involves hospital-grade smart televisions. The technology works through a patient engagement portal to:
- Educate patients through videos assigned to them based on their condition
- Provide health information such as lab results, medications and vital signs
- Offer concierge-type services such as online meal ordering, on-demand videos, music and games, and gift shop deliveries
Hospitals using this technology have reported increased patient satisfaction, higher HCAHPS scores and reduced readmissions.
3. Revamp Your Culture
Developing a culture that values the patient experience is crucial to patient satisfaction. In order to be effective, it must be driven by senior leadership and include accountability by everyone at the facility.
Suggested ways to develop this type of culture include:
- Make a Positive Patient Experience Part of the Culture – Having senior leadership walk the halls and interact with patients and staff goes a long way in establishing a culture of caring and positivity
- Establish Expectations Early Among Employees – Set expectations early about behavior and attitude and incorporate them into job descriptions and employee training
- Reduce Stress Among Staff Who Interact With Patients – Ensuring sufficient number of staff to avoid burnout, investing in staff education and opportunities for growth, and offering assistance to help manage stress will improve morale and create a positive atmosphere for patients
- Be Aware and Considerate of Patients – Even if your institution fails to provide the quality of care patients expect, they may be apt to answer survey questions more favorably if they have a positive impression of and were treated well by the staff
4. Collect and Act on Data
Even though HCAHPS survey results may not always be pretty, disregarding the data may be doing a disservice to your institution. Although response rates can be low, and only those extremely satisfied or dissatisfied tend to answer the survey, it serves as a good starting point as to what areas are working and which need attention. In the interest of improving the patient experience:
- Spend time analyzing HCAHPS results to see if there is consistency in patient experience, either good or bad, and adjust accordingly
- Collect data on your own by checking with patients and solving problems while they are still in your care
By taking proactive steps to develop a stronger focus on quality patient care, higher patient satisfaction and HCAHPS scores should follow. Implementing the necessary policies and procedures may cost your institution relatively little in comparison to the benefits you will receive in return.