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Improving Patient Experience – No Longer a “Nice to Do” on Your List

Patient CareWhen Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program in FY2013, the direct link between patient experience and hospital financial performance was proven. This program rewards – or penalizes, hospitals based on a combination of core measures, hospital-acquired conditions and the facility’s score on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. These results determine facility Medicare rates for inpatient care now.

Trend Spreads Across Payers

Commercial payers have an interest in patient satisfaction, as well. Each year plan deductibles and coinsurance continue to reach deeper and deeper into the patient’s wallet.

It’s no surprise that patients, with more choices and more of their own money at stake, are demanding a customer-friendly experience. Payers are rewarding providers for keeping patients satisfied. Plus, satisfied patients are going to be more engaged in their care, and engagement should lead to better outcomes and healthier patients.

Not a Single Focus: Clinical and Financial

High scores on patient experience will not come through pursuit of a single strategy. The hospital must use an approach that considers both clinical and financial services of each patient’s encounter with the organization – a true “front to back” assessment.

That means a patient’s experience with the clinical aspect of each encounter is just as important as the operational and financial aspects.

The American Society for Quality (AQS) recently conducted a Health Care Quality & Patient Experience Survey of its members and found that top priorities included:

• Improved communication between patients and caregivers
• Strong leadership that demonstrate commitment to patient-centered care.

Lower scores in the survey included non-traditional care delivery and amenities such as concierge services and healing gardens. It may be time to evaluate capital project priorities and consider repurposing or renovation instead?

Reimbursement and customer service play roles in creating a positive experience, because the financial impact of a high HCAHPS score won’t be nearly as great as the impact of losing a large group of patients because of poor customer service or frustration in understanding their financial responsibility.

Nurses understand the link between compassionate quality care and overall patient satisfaction. Excellent patient experience cannot be reduced to merely checking off boxes. Patients and families have a right to expect that they will be treated with respect, that they will share in making decisions about their care, that care will be safe and efficient, and that transitions in care will be well coordinated and fully communicated. Inclusion of their voice is critical when considering strategies and policies for ensuring an optimal patient experience.

Everyone Into the Pool

Improving patient experience is not a hospital staff job alone. Physician engagement and interaction is one of the biggest factors of a patient’s experience in any health care encounter. Trying to implement improvement efforts on the hospital employee side alone is likely to work for a while; but ultimately, you’ll need both hospital and physicians working together to effect lasting changes in how patient care is provided and patient experience is enhanced.

Increasingly, healthcare organizations are evaluating transition to administration models where administrators and physicians manage operations together – creating the “dual voice” that answers the balance between clinical and financial aspects.

Patient experience directly reflects an organization’s culture, so no improvements can be made without taking that into consideration. Leadership’s dedication and commitment to living a vision that embraces safe, compassionate, high-quality care is the bedrock of your organization.

Enhance your patient experience. Give Soriant Solutions a call: 770.777.6633

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