What does it take to create a great patient experience and promote HCAHPS scores that reflect high quality of care?
Patient experience is subjective. It’s subjective for you, for me, and for anyone who’s lying in a hospital bed. Every individual perceives their care differently, and that’s the challenge.
As a healthcare organization, you have a few chief goals:
- Take care of your patients
- Provide quality care
- Provide safe care
The key is making sure that the care is something your patients truly experience. And beyond that, we want to make sure when they go home and they fill out the HCAHPS survey, that those scores reflect the quality care we’re trying to provide.
HCAHPS, of course, has been submitting these surveys for 10 years now. The key to HCAHPS is understanding how it asks its questions. It ranks the entire care experience on a scale from, “Never” to, “Always.”
The key to that Always answer is consistency:
Doing the right thing,
for every patient,
at the right time,
Every patient, every time.
So, how do you do this? How do you take an experience for so many different people that come into the hospital, and quantify it into a way that we can help our staff make sure that patients experience the care?
Train Specifically for Patient Experience
The first thing we do is we train specifically. We don’t use a shotgun blast approach and throw out every patient experience idea to all of our staff. It will overwhelm them they’ll go across the street and work for your competitor.
The advantage is that we already know the questions that are being asked on the survey. We know the specific questions that are being asked on:
- How responsive your staff was during a patient’s stay
- How well nurses communicated
- How clear communication on medications was to the patient
- How clearly staff communicated on pain management, and
- How well staff communicated on the discharge process.
The next step is to pick those key words out of the questions, and train our staff specifically to deliver a care experience based on those key words.
Set Patients’ Expectations
In addition to training your staff specifically, you also need to set your patients’ expectations.
- Reach out to your patients when they make that first appointment, before they ever arrive at the hospital.
- Reach out again as they come in at admission, or very early in their stay.
- Tell them about the care they should expect to receive.
By setting your patients’ expectations and training your staff on that same care, you’re going to be in a position to meet an expectation you established at the beginning of a patient relationship.
Your patients will not only experience that care, but two things will happen as a result:
- They will write a score that is reflective of those met expectations.
- You will be providing quality care that is experienced and truly felt by your patients.
The idea of training and setting expectations creates a care experience that our patients not only score well, but it creates an experience that is real.