The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey poses 27 questions to discharged patients about their hospital stay. The responses are then compiled into ten specific measures and publicly reported. These measures include: “how well nurses and doctors communicate with patients, how responsive hospital staff are to patients’ needs, how well hospital staff help patients with pain management, how well the staff communicate with patients about medicines, and whether patients receive key information at time of discharge.” Other measures look at how clean and quiet the hospital room is and whether the patient would recommend the hospital to friends and family.
These public scores mean that consumers are able to compare hospital performance within a city, state, region or across the nation. The scores are closely linked to hospitals’ financial performance. A clear tie is obvious between hospital profitability and the patient-satisfaction driven HCAHPS scores. With this information in mind, it is important that hospitals hire and retain employees who fully understand the critical role of patient-centric care.
What can health care industry HR personnel do to positively affect HCAHPS scores? Here are three major ways to accomplish this.
Patients are more likely to have a positive hospital experience and receive excellent care when hospital staff performance reflects the institution’s commitment to the best possible patient-centered care. One way hospitals can find the right employees to accomplish this is to work the organization’s core values into both pre-qualifying and interview questions.
Another highly effective interview technique is the behavioral-based interview approach. This approach makes it possible to identify candidates who will and will not fit well into the hospital’s patient-centric culture. Clinical functions can be taught to most anyone, but compassion, attitude and commitment cannot. These less tangible qualities are typically the ones that will serve the hospital much better in the long run when it comes to patient outcomes and satisfaction.
Satisfied hospital employees mean satisfied hospital patients. When an institution provides a workplace that is supportive and responsive to its employees, it reaps the benefits of better performance by happier workers. Employee satisfaction surveys are one way hospitals can gauge staff morale. For example, a hospital may learn through a survey that many employees want more tuition reimbursement, so it implements a higher reimbursement rate for its health professionals.
Even if the organization’s administration is unable to implement employee-recommended changes, employees still feel appreciated and listened to, simply by the fact that they were asked for input. Some organizations have created special programs for at-risk employees, thus keeping workers who otherwise may have left the job.
The importance of good customer service can be reinforced through regular performance evaluations. Many institutions require performance evaluations from nurse managers four times a year in order to enhance and improve employee communication. When performance management processes are automated, there is more accountability for employees and supervisors to follow the correct processes. Research has found that most problems are related to the process and not person. When hospital employees are confident that their administration is behind them, the result is frequently happier on-the-job performance.