For more than a decade, healthcare organizations have depended upon the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Survey as a measurement of patient perceptions of their care. The survey delivers patient experience data compared against a national standard and helps hospitals pinpoint some areas where care could be improved.Patient participation in these surveys varies and is tied to patient loyalty. A 2012 study found that the higher the response rates, the higher the patient advocacy ratings.
But HCAHPS scores often are delayed in being delivered to hospitals. In fact, hospitals wait about nine months for their results from past patient surveys to be published. For example, the most recently published table of results at the time I wrote this article was April 2017. It contained data from July 2015–June 2016. By the time these results are published, disgruntled patients likely have found their way out of your system—and into a competitor’s clinic.
Though HCAHPS data is full of valuable patient experience data, nearly a year is a long time to wait to implement changes after the conducting of the survey and can be financially devastating to your reimbursements. In the interim, it’s vital to implement your own strategies to get real-time patient feedback. Below are three strategies we recommend for our clients to increase insight into the patient experience at their organizations.
1. Use a patient survey tool to capture reviews before patients leave the office.
A 2013 benchmark study by the Medical Group Management Association found that healthcare organizations that use patient surveys often perform better than clinics that don’t.
One way to make the survey process seamless is to use a digital survey tool, such as Doctor Rate, in your clinic. These tools gather real-time feedback and connect to your physicians’ profiles on third-party review sites, such as Healthgrades or Vitals.
In-clinic surveys can alleviate any uneasiness your team may have about asking for reviews. And this method makes it easy for your team to incorporate the survey into the check-out process.
2. Add feedback space to patient check-in and check-out forms.
Often, patients must wait at least a few minutes before getting in for their appointments. Incorporate a space in their check-in paperwork to capture feedback about the scheduling and check-in processes.
You also can add a section in the check-out paperwork to ask for feedback about their experience during their appointment. Were their questions answered? Were the nurses and physician friendly? And be sure to add a line to both sections to thank the patient for his or her valuable feedback.
3. Monitor and respond appropriately to third-party online reviews as they are posted.
Reviewing patients’ third-party reviews of your physicians helps uncover trends in poor patient experiences and processes that can be updated long before your HCAHPS scores are returned. And as a bonus, it can help increase referrals to your clinic. Your responses are public on Healthgrades, Vitals, Google My Business, and others, and potential patients who are looking for a physician will observe how you communicate with unhappy patients and resolve their concerns.
The importance of patient satisfaction weighs heavily on your organization. Your patients’ real-time feedback can help you improve everything from process gaps to physician loyalty. And just as in every service-oriented industry, the patient experience can make or break your bottom line.
As you wait for your HCAHPS results to be published, consider revamping your internal patient survey processes or implementing a new option. Healthcare today is a consumer-driven industry. Make the most of your time with your patients by gathering—and acting on—their real-time patient experience information.