A few weeks ago, we hosted a webinar to share the 2012 HCAHPS Readiness Survey results. We were lucky enough to have several prestigious contributors from the world of healthcare human resources, including Brian Lee, the founder and CEO of Custom Learning Systems Group and the Healthcare Service Excellence Conference, and Susan Grady, former VP of HR at DuBois Regional Medical Center. Susan currently owns and manages SM Grady Strategic Human Resources, a consulting firm dedicated to co-creating solutions that assist businesses with establishing effective HR strategies. Dr. Frederick Morgeson joined us, too. As a Professor of Management at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, Dr. Morgeson teaches and does research in HR management and organizational behavior.

Here’s a little background on the 2012 HCAHPS Readiness Survey:

  • The survey ran online from August through October 2012

  • There were 19 questions total  

  • 292 healthcare professionals answered the survey

  • A majority of our survey respondents were in HR and at the director or manager level  

  • Just over 20% of respondents were from nursing versus the 78% from HR

According to our survey, most respondents believe that they have clear initiatives in place for the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems survey (HCAHPS), but it’s hard to put them into action. The healthcare organization as a whole has an initiative for addressing HCAHPS, but it’s less likely that HR has specific initiatives to address HCAHPS.

During the webinar, I asked our contributors, “Given that who you hire and how they perform plays such a huge role in boosting HCAHPS scores, why is it that HR is not always tasked with HCAHPS initiatives?” Brian Lee believes that in many organizations, nursing “owns” HCAHPS. According to Lee, it may be due to a lack of education, even within healthcare leadership. “In healthcare, there’s a belief that because you’re in management you should know [about HCAHPS]. There’s a very specific skill set of improving patient satisfaction scores, and at the moment there’s very little literacy on what to do and how to do it, and that’s the major barrier.” He went on to note: “Most organizations haven’t even begun holding management accountable [for HCAHPS results].”

HCAHPS readiness resources

So if healthcare leadership is not being held accountable and management is not being properly trained on HCAHPS, what’s HR’s role in all of this? 

1. Assessing candidates for HCAHPS-related skills

Besides the performance management aspect of HCAHPS, those responsible for talent acquisition should take the lead in helping their organization hire workers who exemplify positive HCAHPS-related behavior (i.e. HCAHPS service-excellence competencies). According to Dr. Morgeson, healthcare organizations should do two things to ensure they are hiring for these HCAHPS service-excellence competencies: 

  • First, understand HCAHPS. “I think the first and most basic thing to do is to really understand what HCAHPS scores are made of. And this involves going under the hood of HCAHPS and recognizing that they’re composed of what HCAHPS calls ‘summary measures’, like communication with nurses and doctors, staff responsiveness and pain management,” said Dr. Morgeson.  
  • Second, start assessing candidates based on HCAHPS-related behaviors. Dr. Morgeson went on to note: “Once you understand what it is that patients are going to be rating you on, and what forms the core of their experience staying at the hospital, the second step is to identify employee behaviors that are going to impact those kinds of metrics. These metrics are likely to be heavily influenced by the extent to which employees do things like actively listen, are helpful and empathic, show courtesy and respect.“When you’re assessing job candidates, keep in mind that many of the behaviors employees will engage in day-to-day will be directly linked to these patient experiences that are going to be reflected in your HCAHPS scores.”

2. Linking HCAHPS to your organizations mission, vision and values. 

“You must really understand as a healthcare organization which of those behaviors that link to the HCAHPS summary measures are then consistent with the organization’s overall mission and values,” said Dr. Morgeson.   

Susan Grady observed: “Today, job descriptions are extremely important in our ever-changing healthcare environment.” 

“I think we have to put more emphasis on the applicant’s understanding of what the organization needs to have done or wants to have done and what the job is all about. We need to have applicants understand very detailed explanations of what skills they need, what abilities they must have to do the job, whether those are hard skills or soft skills,” said Grady.

Job descriptions must include HCAHPS expectations. After all, Grady noted, “If they don’t, then how are hospitals going to meet their financial and quality goals?”

Before they’re hired, healthcare job candidates need to understand something critical: They’re part of a very important bigger picture that includes maintaining a high-level of service excellence across the entire healthcare organization. According to Grady: “Patients and families are looking for teamwork. They’re looking for collaboration among all departments. If caregivers and staff see an opportunity to do something [above and beyond] for a patient, they must use that opportunity and take advantage of it.” By making these HCAHPS responsibilities part of job descriptions from the beginning, healthcare organizations can set the stage for employee accountability around the large and important goal of improving HCAHPS scores.  

During the webinar, we discussed hiring best practices in more detail and the meaning of employee accountability when it comes to HCAHPS. Performance management and goal setting are also critical parts of improving patient satisfaction, and HR should take the lead to improve the performance management process. Download our webinar re-play to learn more from the rest of our discussion. 

About The Editorial Staff

The Editorial Staff is a team of writers with a passion for helping healthcare organizations manage their biggest and most important investment: their employees.