Why Patient Surveys Matter
With healthcare regulations changing rapidly, excellent patient experience scores are more important than ever. One critical component of measuring these scores is the HCAHPS survey. In small hospitals, in particular, excellent patient experience scores can help to keep community hospitals open. Because reimbursement has shifted to focus on value, low patient experience scores could incur a penalty. HCAHPS is a crucial tool that can help decrease wait times and improve the patient experience.
What is HCAHPS?
HCAHPS stands for Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. The survey is a standardized report of the patient’s experiences at hospitals. The survey is the first national standard for collecting and publicly sharing this information. HCAHPS gives patients an opportunity to self-report regarding the overall experience of care. Instead of asking if the patients received proper care, the survey uses standardized methodology and well-tested questions to measure the patient’s perceptions.
Patient experience in small hospitals
In the small hospital, positive patient experience matters more than ever. In an industry where small institutions need to be more and more conscious of costs, excellent patient experience can help to lower costs and improve employee engagement. This leads to decreased physician turnover and burnout, another challenge that small hospitals often face.
Patient experience defined
When evaluating patient experience, HCAHPS assesses all of the little interactions that patients have that impact satisfaction. These can include timely access to care, easy access to information, and the quality of communication from healthcare providers. How patients answer these questions is crucial to the success of a hospital.
Do wait times matter?
The HCAHPS survey assesses multiple areas that all work together to impact the patient experience. Because the assessment is based on the patient’s perceptions, healthcare providers and administrators need to understand what patients care about. Wait times are a significant concern for patients. What’s more, patients care about receiving updates and information while waiting. Thus, the actual wait time matters, but the patient’s perception of wait time also matters.
Decreasing wait times
A significant aspect of decreasing wait times is improving staff efficiency and increasing communication. One way to achieve this is by rethinking the case management strategy. Especially in small hospitals where staff is spread thin, employing a telecase management team is an effective way to improve communication and efficiency during off-hours.
Understanding what a patient wants
HCAHPS asks targeted, precise questions to help illuminate what the patient wants. One of these critical factors is how well staff communicate. For example, one study found that patients overestimated the time a physician spent at the bedside by 1.3 minutes in the cases when the doctor sat down and made eye contact. In the absence of eye contact or when the physician remained standing, patients underestimated by 0.6 minutes. Again, understanding patient perceptions are the most crucial part of improving patient experience.
Improving patient experience
Raising patient experience scores is crucial for the small hospital. Implementing the HCAHPS survey has been shown to reduce costs, improve patient experience, and increase employee engagement. The result is that more small hospitals can continue offering care to the populations most in need.