Focus on patient satisfaction to see ratings rise

Nurse Leader Insider, July 13, 2007

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Nurse managers who want to make sure that their hospitals get glowing reviews when patient satisfaction surveys are unveiled to the public early next year should make paying attention to patients' personal needs a top priority.

So says a new report by South Bend, IN-based Press Ganey Associates titled Hospital Pulse Report: Perspectives on American Health Care. The study examines the experiences of more than 2.3 million patients treated at more than 1,700 acute care hospitals in 2006.

It also looks at patients' top priorities and what areas will drive up scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). Press Ganey, the leading vendor of healthcare performance measurement and improvement, details in the report the top five areas most closely tied to HCAHPS ratings. They are:

  • Attentiveness to personal needs
  • Responsiveness to concerns/complaints
  • Level of courtesy/respect with which the nurses treat patients
  • Care with which doctors listen to patients
  • Extent of efforts by staff members to help with pain

People are starting to get ready for public reporting of HCAHPS," says Matt Mulherin, director of corporate communications for Press Ganey. "So if your number one goal is to look as good as possible on the HCAHPS measures, then this is the order of things that you want to focus on."

Patient satisfaction rising

Overall patient satisfaction rose between 2003 and 2006, the report found, with OB/GYN patients giving hospitals the highest scores. On the downside, communication between hospital staff members and patients needs improvement.

"Issues with communication will make or break a stay," says Mulherin.
The report also details the patient's overall priority index, which is similar to HCAHPS scores but with a subtle difference. Items that lead to higher HCAHPS scores, such as nurses' respectful treatment of patients and the care with which doctors listen, generally get high marks from patients. So even if you receive a 90% score on doctor communication, you may want to try to improve it to 95% to really see your HCAHPS scores soar.

On the other hand, the patient priority index includes items that are both important to overall satisfaction and have room for improvement. Hospitals may want to design performance improvement programs around these areas.

The index, in order of priority, includes:

  • Response to concerns/complaints made during the patient's stay
  • Staff sensitivity to the inconvenience that health problems and hospitalization can cause
  • Staff effort to include the patient in decisions about his or her treatment
  • Degree to which hospital staff members addressed the patient's emotional needs
  • How well the nurses kept the patient informed

Source: Quality Improvement Report, June 2007, HCPro, Inc.

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