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When Patient Satisfaction Impacts Your Hospital’s Bottom Line

Over the past decade, patients have assumed an ever-greater portion of medical costs, resulting in the consumerization of healthcare delivery. It’s no longer enough to simply treat the patient; it’s crucial to also treat the patient well. Reporting on patient satisfaction, Medical Economics noted that a quarter of patients perceive that their doctor doesn’t care about them as a person, and 20 percent question whether their doctor is invested in the patient’s health outcomes. Fully 90 percent say that they have no qualms about jumping ship if they’re not satisfied with their doctor.

HCAHPS Tied to Reimbursement

The necessity of paying attention to patient satisfaction is underscored by the role that HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) plays in healthcare choice and reimbursement. Using 25 questions, the HCAHPS survey queries discharged patients about their hospitalization. The questions cover a broad range of topics, including staff responsiveness, communication with medical staff, the hospital environment, and discharge. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publish survey results quarterly, enabling patients to comparison shop.

In addition to reputational risk, HCAHPS patient satisfaction scores pose a risk to a hospital’s bottom line. CMS’ Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program (VBP) is an incentive payment model that gives equal weight to safety, clinical care, efficiency and cost reduction, and patient and caregiver-centered experience of care/care coordination. That last 25 percent is determined using HCAHPS base and consistency scores. CMS calculates a hospital’s Total Performance Score (TPS). Medicare payments are reduced by two percent, and than that money is allocated to hospitals based on their TPS.

Tracking Patient Satisfaction

As evaluated by HCAHPS, patient satisfaction generally consists of two strands: one environmental and the other interpersonal. In the environmental realm, the HCAHPS survey asks about the cleanliness of the patient’s room and bathroom, and whether the area around the room was quiet at night. Virtually all of the remaining questions relate to how the patient was treated by staff members. It asks about the responsiveness and communication skills of physicians, nurses, and staff members both generally and in specific situations such as toileting and pain management. The survey also asks patients to rate the hospital on a scale of one to ten, and whether or not they would recommend the hospital to friends and family members.

Tackling Communication Basics

HCAHPS patient satisfaction scores are largely based on interpersonal communications, yet it’s important for hospitals to step back and look at the bigger picture of medical staff and non-medical staff communications. For example, real-time on-call schedules lead to fewer calls to track down the right physician, thus lessening the time a patient has to wait. A commitment from administrators to seek regular input from staff reduces frustration. Happier medical staff members are likely to have more empathy and compassion for patients. The ability for hospital staff to have 24/7 access to accurate contact information and the tools to reach other staff members has the effect of increasing patient safety, which in turn assures an uptick in patient satisfaction.

The consumerization of healthcare and the value-based reimbursement model are here to stay. Real-time information accessible from any internet-connected device inside or outside of the facility keeps everyone in the loop. MDsyncNET’s cloud-based software supports patient satisfaction by providing hospital administrators and staff with the tools to engage in seamless communication. And when patient satisfaction is on the rise, so are revenues.

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