HCAHPS Scores: Tech Optimizes Patient Satisfaction Surveys

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores have numerous layers of importance in healthcare. Physicians, patients, operators—everyone can be impacted by the famous patient satisfaction survey results.
Deloitte reported that hospitals with “excellent” HCAHPS ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7%. This is compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with “low” ratings.
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Why do HCAHPS scores really matter?

What does this mean for the bottom line? Patients share experiences and seek out those excellent hospitals. With Medicare dollars going toward hospitals with better numbers, making patients happy makes everyone involved happy.
Find the solutions to common problems in patient satisfaction
The hospitals of the near future should be more oriented around the value offered to the patient. There are numerous arguments that the traditional patient satisfaction survey is flawed. Surveys can’t know about a patients’ past. They may be untimely. Complaints that the surveys are tailored for hospitals instead of patients abound (with good reason). Test-type forms in general can lead to those being graded simply taking advantage of the system. Then, the idea that hospitals will focus on making patients happy instead of well.
A great quote from a Missouri Clinical Instructor to the The Atlantic:

“Patients can be very satisfied and dead an hour later. Sometimes hearing bad news is not going to result in a satisfied patient, yet the patient could be a well-informed, prepared patient.”

An executive’s goal of tackling HCAHPS scores should be both smart and wary at the same time. They need to succeed and increase their numbers while also being sure they’re actually providing the results that will lead to long-term growth.

What can lead to higher HCAHPS scores?

Perhaps the most complicated part of this scoring system is the feedback loop. How do you turn bad numbers into positive results? It all begins by pinpointing the underlying problem. Sure, your patients may feel like they waited an eternity to get the attention they needed, but what was the problem? Poor communication or inefficient patient flows? Are physicians not given the resources to have enough face-to-face time with their patients? The only to actually raise HCAHPS scores in the long term and have happy patients and staff is by addressing the root causes of problems.

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Upcoming Years will be different for hospitals, HCAHPS scores

Many hospitals are trying to implement new technology to get ahead. However, many more are simply trying to catch up to the rest. Hospitals are large and difficult to steer which means low risk and low cost solutions will be of the utmost importance in the coming digitalization of hospitals.
Key aspects of technological solutions in healthcare:

  • low risk
  • low cost

For example, Real-Time Location Systems are growing in popularity for numerous reasons in the space. They can save huge amounts of money on misplaced or underutilized assets. Digital navigation systems are adding a layer of ease to visits for patients and their families. There are many other solutions and technologies available, but executives must be certain that these technologies genuinely solve their problems before moving forward. Once that ROI is clear, creating and deploying a solution is relatively simple (as simple as something can be in a hospital!).

hcahps patient experience software

Step 1: Identify Your Pain Points in Patient Survey Results

There are 8 basic problem areas in hospitals when it comes to patients. More importantly, there are several ways to break up these problems and to face them. Some of the common underlying problems include:

  • Patient pain points are not clear
  • Patients are confused by what to expect or do post-visit
  • Staff is often both underutilized and overloaded
  • Staff is often moved to areas they are not comfortable with
  • Nurse calls have long response time
  • Issues driving patient-first attitude among staff

These probably all sound familiar, because many hospitals suffer from multiple problems.

Step 2: List Your Possible Responses

How can you solve the above problems? This should be scalable and appropriate for the long-term. While, for example, the response to a poor patient flow might seem to be “adding more nurses or triage points,” that’s a now-fix rather than a long-term solution to a big problem. Here, it’s important to get creative. Next you can temper your ideas by what technology is really available. You may choose to:

  • Add real-time data
  • Create a positive feedback loop
  • Track and verify cleaning schedules or rounds
  • Optimize education opportunities for patients

Step 3: The Technology Use Case

For many of these pain points and proposed solutions, Bluetooth beacons can do the job. For example, in order to help patients post-visit and decrease readmissions, patients can be sent all the appropriate information digitally upon exiting. Furthermore, by educating the patient from the beginning of their journey through one of their most prized possessions—the smart phone—administrators guarantee reaching more patients with more actionable information. Patient flow can be optimized through digital wayfinding systems, and security can be upheld through proximity-enabled access control and more immediate access to physical data of staff members.
The key? The solution solves the problem defined as the core issue.

Bluetooth beacons or “tags” are making their mark in the healthcare industry.
There are several case studies of hospitals using Bluetooth beacons to aid visitors (or even staff). One of our favorites is the Riviera-Chablais Hospital in Switzerland. OnYourMap used 170 beacons to power an indoor navigation system that worked via app. Originally, patients and visitors were stuck trying to maneuver the 15,000 square meter space on their own. While this is doable, and the historic norm, it can lead to wasted time, lost patient, queueing issues, and more.
More importantly, beacon infrastructures are not overly difficult or expensive to implement and manage. This means patients end up happy and so do administrators. Of course, this isn’t the only beacon deployment. There are hundreds of hospitals around the world either in pilot phases or enjoying full roll-outs. In 2018, this will only increase as emphasis on HCAHPS scores rises and Bluetooth is repeatedly proven an affordable and practical solution.