lakelandHCAHPS, HCAHPS, HCAHPS!  If you work in a patient-facing role in a hospital, you’re probably familiar with the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Survey.  The national standardized survey publicly reports patients’ perspectives of hospital care with questions focused on the following aspects of a patient’s experience: communication with doctors and nurses, responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, communication about medicines, discharge information, cleanliness of the hospital environment, quietness of the hospital environment, and transition of care.

The HCAHPS survey is a major component of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s Value-Based Purchasing Program (VBP), which is an initiative that aims to encourage hospitals, through financial incentives, to provide high quality care and increase patient satisfaction. The VBP Program fines poor performing hospitals and allocates those funds to the highest performers as a financial reward. For fiscal year 2014, the CMS took back 1.25 percent of Medicare reimbursements at hospitals paid under Medicare’s inpatient prospective patient system. The resulting $1.1 billion will be distributed to the top performing hospitals based on various quality measures, including patient satisfaction. The interaction a patientro has with every staff member or clinician during their hospital visit is an opportunity for a hospital’s reputation to be strengthened or damaged. The tricky part is that patients perceive quality care differently than health professionals. Most healthcare providers equate quality care with positive treatment outcomes, while patients often view quality healthcare as a satisfying in-hospital experience.

In early 2013, Lakeland HealthCare’s overall hospital rating on the HCAHPS survey was at the 35th percentile. Disappointed with their scores, they decided to take action. Lakeland HealthCare launched the Bring Your Heart to Work initiative with a goal of reaching “90 in 90,”(90% of patients giving an overall rating of 9 or 10 on the HCAHPS survey within 90 days). The foundation of the Bring Your Heart to Work initiative is “Who, What, and Why”― employees were asked to introduce themselves to every patient they encounter (Who), communicate what they are there to do (What), and explain the reasoning behind the decision (Why).  For example, “My name is Joe, I’m going to be your lab technician today.  I’m here to draw your blood so we can monitor your progress and ensure that you fully recover.” Another initiative that Lakeland’s HR team took to increase patient satisfaction was through employee rounding. Lakeland’s HR team implemented rounding as a way to increase energy and compassion in the workplace. Each patient care department that reported satisfaction scores in the hospital is paired with an HR manager who attends staff meetings, huddles, and rounds on the floors throughout the week.  “Our goal with associate rounding is to focus on increasing employee engagement and the ‘Who, What, and Why’ techniques. We know that if we focus on increasing engagement it will have a direct impact on patient satisfaction,” says Tracy Brown, Director of Human Resources at Lakeland HealthCare. At the end of the “90 in 90” initiative, Lakeland exceeded their goal, reaching the 95th percentile ranking for overall ratings on the HCAHPS survey.  “By getting out on the floor we’ve gotten better insight into our patient care managers and their needs,” said Brown.  Lakeland HealthCare is now focused on “90 and forever,” with a goal of maintaining 90 percent patient satisfaction ratings on an ongoing basis.

In order for hospitals to achieve high HCAHPS scores and in turn increase their Medicare reimbursement rates, their employees must understand the importance of providing patient-centered care and the impact they have on the bottom line. Hospitals must educate their employees about how patients perceive quality and implement systems that help ensure patient expectations are exceeded. HR, organizational development, and education teams should also play a significant role in hiring, developing, and retaining top talent who value customer service and put patient satisfaction above all.


Download our latest white paper: HCAHPS, Talent Management and the Bottom Line to learn five areas where HR and Organizational Development teams can develop initiatives to improve patient satisfaction and boost HCAHPS survey results.


Meghan Doherty

About Meghan Doherty

Meghan Doherty is the Content Marketing Manager at HealthcareSource. In her role, Meghan manages the creation and distribution of educational resources to help healthcare talent management professionals recruit and retain the best workforce possible. When she's not creating content for HealthcareSource, Meghan enjoys long walks through the shoe department, binge-watching anything and everything on Netflix, peanut butter sandwiches, and watching Jeopardy every night at 7:30.