Healthcare News & Insights

How other hospital are improving patient satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is an important factor for hospitals’ finances — but a lot of facilities are struggling to improve their scores. 

465539771As hospital leaders know, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been paying closer attention to patient surveys and satisfaction scores in recent years.

Problems with patient satisfaction

Recently, the agency began using patient satisfaction data to help determine pay levels for hospitals. And starting this year, the feds will be using patient feedback to create a five-star rating system for facilities, which could impact admissions.

This kind of trend will likely continue as CMS and other private payors push the industry to adopt value-based reimbursements.

That means its crucial for hospitals to improve satisfaction scores if they want to maintain their finances and payment rates.

However, as Kaiser Health News reports, many hospitals’ satisfaction scores haven’t budged over the last few years.

As Diedre Mylod, an executive for a company which conducts patient surveys, notes in the article, higher performers now are the same facilities that did well five years ago.

Often, it can be hard for hospitals to boost scores because so many different factors during a visit can impact satisfaction, like provider-patient relationships, staff’s bedside manner, how quickly patients’ needs are addressed, etc.

Improving scores

However, Kaiser’s article also notes some facilities have managed to lift up their scores with some unique techniques.

One example: The University of Missouri Health System recently created a simulation center at its medical school to help physicians develop their patient communication and bedside manner for a variety of situations.

The system uses actors to play patients a doctor is treating. But rather than practice diagnosing a condition, physicians practice responding to non-medical issues, such as how to deal with family members arguing or a patient who’s upset about not being given information quickly enough.

The simulations accomplished their goal and improved satisfaction scores. In 2013, when Medicare collected more patient data from the system, 78% of patients said the hospital’s doctors always communicated well, an increase from previous years.

Similarly, the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, improved patient satisfaction by revamping its hiring and performance review processes using a three-pronged approach:

  1. Applicants first have to pass a psychological screening test.
  2. Then, the candidate must go through a rigorous interview process and be endorsed by staff members they would be working alongside.
  3. Finally, workers’ performances are reviewed by their manager every six months. Supervisors rate performance as either high, medium or low, and low performers are given improvement goals they must meet, or face being terminated.

As the industry continues to shift toward being more patient-centered, hospital leaders will want to regularly survey patients and look for areas of operations that need improvement.

And it’s important to remember that it doesn’t always take a big or expensive move to improve scores. Sometimes addressing small details in your operations can have a big impact on patients’ experiences and satisfaction with your facility.

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