Why Nurses Should Care About HCAHPS Scores

Guest Contributorby Dr. Renee Thompson | Posted | Performance Management

Why Nurses Should Care About HCAHPS Scores

In the 21st century, patients’ perception of care is at the forefront of the healthcare conversation.

In the past, healthcare organizations only had to focus on providing care and the outcome of that care. However, the adoption of patient perception surveys, such as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) in the U.S. have added an additional layer of accountability for healthcare administrators and clinicians alike.

The impact of HCAHPS scores and healthcare reform on the U.S. healthcare industry as a whole is immense. Patient care and patient outcomes must now be the guiding force behind the delivery of care. Nurse-patient interaction, quality of care, the impact of technology, electronic health records, the continuum of care and cross-disciplinary care coordination are foci calling out for intense study and attention from both healthcare leaders and the staff who interact directly with patients.

But what does this all mean to the nurses who are delivering patient care?

Understanding HCAHPS

The purpose of HCAHPS is:

“To provide a standardized survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients’ perspectives on hospital care.”

Its goals are to:

  1. Produce comparable data on the patient’s perspective on care that allows objective and meaningful comparisons between hospitals.
  2. Create incentives for hospitals to improve quality of care.
  3. Enhance public accountability in healthcare by increasing transparency of the quality of hospital care.

Survey dimensions include:

  1. Communication with nurses
  2. Communication with physicians
  3. Staff responsiveness
  4. Pain management
  5. Communication about medications
  6. Discharge information
  7. Cleanliness and quietness
  8. Overall rating of the hospital

How do HCAHPS scores impact healthcare organizations?

Reimbursements are linked directly to HCAHPS scores. Organizations that take their results seriously and take action to improve will maximize their reimbursement. Organizations that ignore these results will not be financially viable in the future.

How can nurses help?

For nurses, fully understanding the impact of HCAHPS and other patient perception/satisfaction scores is an important step towards being a more empowered and engaged member of the healthcare team. In this arena, knowledge is a source of power, and ignorance will no longer be a valid defense.

The influence of HCAHPS is part of the new healthcare landscape, and nurses’ understanding of how those scores can impact their ability to effectively care for patients is part and parcel of this 21st century healthcare paradigm in the United States.

When considering strategies for improving lackluster scores, administrators would be wise to include their nurses in the conversation. Nurses are on the front lines and can more readily identify existing barriers to improved care.

Now is the time for healthcare organizations to be creative and forward thinking. And while we recognize that perception is not always reality (and HCAHPS is, of course, based on perception), we must nimbly and adroitly address these perceptions head on.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that patient satisfaction and perception of care is quickly becoming the driver of consumer healthcare choices.

In order to be ahead of the curve on this healthcare sea of change, organizations must understand the new zeitgeist, while making concerted efforts to engage their employees in identifying strategies for the improvement of care.

In the final analysis, organizations that ignore patient satisfaction scores apparently do so at their peril. Meanwhile, healthcare facilities that recognize the crucial nature of patient perception and satisfaction will have a categorical head start over those who lag behind in their understanding.

Forecasting into the future, those nimbly thoughtful organizations that use their frontline staff to identify areas for improvement in patient care will most certainly move to the front of the pack.

Your Turn: How are your nurses helping to improve patient satisfaction? What system so you have in place to gather and implement their ideas?

This post was written in collaboration with Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC. Keith is a Board Certified Nurse Coach, the Chief Nursing Officer for an Albuquerque-based home health agency, and the blogger behind the award-winning nursing blog, Digital Doorway. Connect with Keith on Twitter.

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