Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) link patient satisfaction scores to Medicare reimbursements. Due to this connection between reimbursements and customer satisfaction, hospitals and other health care providers are placing more emphasis on achieving high patient satisfaction ratings.
Poor communication, long wait times and a lack of empathy are several factors known to contribute to poor patient experiences. Health care organizations are now making efforts to examine the patient experience more carefully due to the risk of losing Medicare funding.
To learn more, check out the infographic below created by University of Cincinnati’s Online Master of Health Administration program.
The Current State of Patient Satisfaction in the Health Care Industry
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) found customer satisfaction to be 63 out of 100 among the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) in 2016. This information was cited on CMS’ 2016 Customer Satisfaction report using measurements from the customer satisfaction index.
According to the study, numerous drivers affected patient satisfaction, such as providing a cost report audit and reimbursement, an Internet self-service portal and an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) help desk.
The decision to tie Medicare reimbursements to patient satisfaction scores is relatively recent. Traditionally, health care organizations have not hinged on customer satisfaction for financial success, but the CMS has changed this under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The CMS is planning to use scores acquired by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) with the intent “to provide a standardized survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients’ perspectives on hospital care.”
The HCAHPS study has listed three goals for improving customer satisfaction ratings on the HCAHPS Fact Sheet. These include:
1. Producing “data that allow objective and meaningful comparisons of hospitals on topics that are important to patients and consumers.”
2. Creating “new incentives for hospitals to improve quality of care.”
3. Enhancing “accountability in health care by increasing transparency of the quality of hospital care provided in return for the public investment.”
Factors Contributing to Patient Satisfaction
A study published by the Patient Experience Journal used HCAHPS survey data collected from 14 states between 2009 and 2011 to determine which factors affected patient satisfaction.
The study found that doctor communication, nurse communication and the responsiveness of hospital staff had a noticeable effect on patient satisfaction ratings. Room cleanliness and quietness, control of pain levels and communication concerning medication and discharge information also had an impact.
Hospitals and clinics measure customer satisfaction using a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures. The benefits of encouraging a quality experience aren’t only noticed by patients. They’re felt by the organization as well.
Dr. James Merlino determined the concerns of patients at the Cleveland Clinic through a qualitative and quantitative study during his tenure as the clinic’s chief experience officer. His study found that difficulty scheduling an appointment, poor communication and an uncomfortable environment all had a negative effect on patient satisfaction.
Based on the results of Dr. Merlino’s study, the clinic chose to make several minor adjustments, including the following:
Creating a dedicated team to discuss patients’ concerns and complaints on a weekly basis.
Launching a caregiver appreciation program to motivate employees and encourage an improved patient experience.
Making hourly nursing rounds mandatory throughout the institution.
And using one phone number to book all same-day appointments.
The Value of Aiming for High Patient Satisfaction
Aiming for high rates of customer satisfaction could substantially increase the quality of clinical care delivery. The following examples showcase the potential value of aiming for high customer satisfaction ratings.
A pleasant patient experience can increase the likelihood of patients making a referral or an appointment for a return visit.
Satisfied patients can reduce staff turnover by improving morale.
Having satisfied patients can keep profitability consistent and also lessen the risk of malpractice suits.
Being less price sensitive can make satisfied customers more immune to offers from competitors.
Encouraging a positive patient experience can reduce the probability of being called out on social media platforms.
Tips for Improving Patient Satisfaction
In many cases, improving patient satisfaction can come from implementing a few policy changes. Here are several tips for improving customer satisfaction in health care settings.
Check the confidence levels of both caregivers and patients.
Prohibit staff from responding to questions from patients and family members by saying “I’m too busy.”
Make responding to call bells mandatory for nursing staff.
Ask and answer questions about comfort, pain levels, bathroom needs and the patient’s test and treatment schedule while conducting hourly rounds.
Establish a high-risk readmission team to meet with patients who are readmitted to the hospital on a regular basis.
As a hospital’s performance on the HCAHPS survey accounts for 30 percent of the Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) formula, health care organizations are increasingly driven to improve customer satisfaction. Otherwise, they will have to face the possibility of having less funding.
Market, hospital and patient characteristics may make some hospitals more at risk of losing money than others. But by taking a closer peek at what makes patients satisfied with their health care experience, hospitals will find that a lower likelihood of reduced funding and an array of other benefits are worth the time and effort spent on evaluating hospital performance.