Top 6 tips to improve your hospital's HCAHPS scores

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Since 2006, the federal government has recognized Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems as a standardized survey that can help hospitals improve quality of care.

The survey is a tool for objective comparison between hospitals. The published results of HCAHPS gives hospitals an incentive to improve patient care. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services explain that HCAHPS increases transparency in the healthcare system.

With HCAHPS, what your patients think matters. The survey consists of 27 questions, and patients score your hospital on items that ask about their hospital experience. Your HCAHPS score can have a significant impact on your hospital, so increasing your score is worth the effort. Here are six ways to help you strengthen your results:

1. Communicate with your team.
Make a HCAHPS discussion part of every regular staff meeting. This gives doctors, nurses and other staff members the opportunity to collaborate, and lets staff know how important it is to keep your scores high — and that their actions matter.
With open discussion, you are more likely to hear honest feedback and ideas about what is working and what additional needs should be addressed.

2. Make a good first impression — outdoors.
Nice grounds are a great way to make a good impression before a patient ever steps foot inside the hospital. Landscaping may not be what comes to mind when thinking about patient care, but well-manicured and inviting grounds can make patients less nervous about visiting a hospital. Not all patients come to the hospital through the front doors, but all patients eventually see the grounds.

3. Include your patients.
Patients have a right to know where they stand with their care — from what their condition is to what treatment options they have to what to expect during treatment. You can also talk to them about their experience, and therefore get your information about patient perception directly from the source. Ask what they think your hospital is doing well, and where you can improve.

4. Prioritize patient interactions.
It is not just what you say, but how you say it. The way hospital staff delivers messages can make patients feel more comfortable. To improve perceived staff professionalism and avoid letting patients feel neglected, Vanguard Resources suggests incorporating the following components into your everyday practice: Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation and Thank You.

These principles, known as AIDET, can ensure a better experience for all patients. One way to implement them is to prepare a script for each member of the healthcare team. Nurses in the emergency room, for example, can be trained to "acknowledge" patient anxiety, saying something like, "Dr. Jones will be right in, and he is very sensitive about your condition."

5. Overwhelm patients with cleanliness.
Your hospital needs to be clean in order to be safe. Despite patient opinions, your hospital has to be spotless to reduce hospital-acquired infections resulting in higher patient care costs and a poor reputation. Every surface and medical device must be sterilized, and caregivers need to use proper hygienic practices.

Even if your hospital is already doing this, try to look at the operation from a patient's perspective. A bright and clean-looking facility inspires more confidence than a dark one, even if the dark one is sterilized. Patients may also take comfort when they see doctors and other providers washing their hands and putting on fresh gloves just before procedures — rather than before they enter the patient's room.

6. Reduce noise.
Imagine walking down the hall wheeling a cart with a squeaky wheel. It may not seem like a big deal to a nurse who is thinking about his or her next patient or is going to leave the cart at his or her next stop. To a patient who is lying in bed and trying to get well, however, the sound may be aggravating enough to interfere with healing, and certainly stressful enough to mark you down on the HCAHPS.

Keeping some oil or grease on carts or in storerooms and teaching nurses and other staff to use it is an example of one small and inexpensive change that may have a big impact on your scores. Maintain gurneys, wheelchairs and carts in top condition, if they bang and clang, fix them on site or hire a repairperson.

Nighttime noise is another concern. Patients need to sleep well if you want them to have a good hospital experience. While you cannot avoid all nighttime noise in a hospital due to monitors beeping and the night staff making their rounds — you can limit it. Restricting television volumes and cellphone use can make it easier for patients to relax and sleep.

Denny Hammack is the President of Patterson Pope, the industry-leading supplier of high-density shelving storage solutions and products. He has more than 25 years of being in the storage industry.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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