Communication on Medications Effects HCAHPS Scores and Patient Safety

By Matt Dufilho, Updated March 2, 2021

Communication with patients on medications is important for both patient experience HCAHPS scores on the HCAHPS survey AND patient safety.

The two questions the HCAHPS survey asks with regards to communicating on medications are:

“How often did the hospital staff explain the purpose of the medication?”

“How often did the hospital staff explain the side effects in a way that the patient could understand?”

Communication and HCAHPS Scores

Data indicates that there is a big disconnect between patient education efforts and what patients are actually learning. A recent survey of patients at discharge showed that when they went home, a third of the patients did not know the purpose of their medications, and that 86% did not know the side effects of their medications. That is a problem.

hcahps scores

How do we tackle it? It starts with slowing down the process for administering medications. Take time to allow the patient to ask questions, and give yourself enough time to give complete answers. Make sure that patients are well educated on their medication, and use the same process for every patient, every time. The process consists of four main elements.

  • Name of the medication
  • Dosage
  • Purpose of the medication
  • Any side effects that go along with that medication

It may seem incredibly repetitive to say the name, dosage, purpose, and side effects of each medication every time, but the HCAHPS survey question doesn’t ask, “Did the staff member occasionally give those key points for medication?” Rather, it asks, “how often,” and the answer should be “always” for every patient, every time.

If your patients can repeat back the name, dosage, purpose, and side effects, you can be sure that they will indicate “always” when asked about medication education on the HCAHPS survey. While the focus of these tactics is on the patient’s answer to the survey question, the ultimate end goal is a patient who is more educated on their own medications.