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HCAHPS is not just about process

April 7, 2011
Every hospital we speak with these days says the same thing – the HCAHPS program (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Service) is forcing them to look at every possible strategy to improve the patient experience.  Since 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) require hospitals to submit a standardized survey measuring patient perception of the quality of care they receive.

Starting in 2013, under the value based purchasing program, hospitals will be financially rewarded or penalized based on performance on quality metrics, including HCAHPS results.  Obviously, patient satisfaction and quantifiable quality metrics are on the top of every hospital’s list of priorities.

Hospitals are focusing on technology, like EMR, that improves standardization and quality of care, and on processes, like those discussed by the Studor group in this Becker’s Hospital Review article, intended to improve the patient experience.  What most of these discussions miss, however, is the important role of human resources.

It’s been demonstrated over and over again that effective employee selection strategies can improve customer service and workplace safety.  Selecting employees at every level who are more likely to be patient and quality focused, conscientious, have attention to detail and demonstrate empathy, is as important as any patient satisfaction strategy or process improvement plan.

It takes a team to provide quality care – RNs, physicians, housekeepers, dietary, managers and volunteers.  It just takes one individual, one patient interaction, to turn a positive patient perception to a negative one.  Training plays a role but the reality is that some people are more likely than others to provide the type of patient experience you need under the HCAHPS program.  It only makes sense to start with as many of these people as possible – and to quickly eliminate those who are highly unlikely to demonstrate the required behaviors.

    • What are you doing to ensure that your hiring process focuses on people with these attributes?

    • What are you doing to make promotion decisions based on solid data about an employee’s potential to manage and lead in a manner consistent with your mission and vision?

    • Don’t forget about physicians.  Particularly as hospitals add more employed physicians, you have an opportunity to select physicians who fit your culture and to educate them on the importance of the patient experience.

Want to improve HCAHPS scores?  Start with better raw material.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.