Over time, the healthcare industry has come to equate patient experience with HCAHPS, observes William Maples, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Professional Research Consultants, Inc., (PRC). "In doing so, we have departed from a richer assessment of how patients actually experience care. We're missing part of the story," he argues in a recent article in Hospitals & Health Networks Magazine online. Improving patient experience means going beyond HCAHPS (the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey) to find better ways to measure and understand how patients think and feel about the care they receive.
With the advent of value-based care and an increasing emphasis on the financial incentives tied to HCAHPS metrics, a business-centric strategy has evolved within hospitals and health networks that focuses on quantifiable performance assessments. "The HCAHPS survey was originally designed to produce data about patients' perspectives to enhance safety and accountability in healthcare," says Dr. Maples, who also leads PRC's Institute for Healthcare Excellence. Although HCAHPS doesn't capture every aspect of the patient experience, it does target important measures of care, such as pain management, responsiveness of hospital staff, and discharge information, he explains. "But measuring true patient experience and the value of care is more complex."
What it means to 'go beyond' HCAHPS
In H&HN's article, Dr. Maples advocates "a more comprehensive view of patient experience" that identifies and acknowledges existing gaps and clears the way for "a deeper level of engagement among our care teams and patients" to add value to care delivery. He says that, in addition to their current dimensions, HCAHPS metrics should help hospitals and health systems assess teamwork, communication, and the connections between patients and caregivers.
His prescription for a more holistic approach to understanding and improving patient experience includes:
- Addressing the five factors patients most often cite as being critical to a positive care experience: compassion shown, time invested, respect demonstrated, listening exhibited, and teamwork communicated and displayed
- Developing a workplace culture emphasizing teamwork, communication, trust and mutual respect
- Nurturing teamwork by actively teaching effective communication skills
- Evaluating survey methodologies to maximize response rates and ensure that data accurately reflect patient demographics
- Thinking outside the box by adding survey questions that go beyond what HCAHPS currently measures
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