Is Healthcare Too Dependent on HCAHPS?

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)
A happy senior woman poses with her home health aide

Home health organizations are certainly not in the customer service business in the same way Disney or The Ritz-Carlton are — but a new white paper says we need to think more along those lines.

McKinsey and Company examines how healthcare organizations can take non-healthcare approaches to improving patient satisfaction in “Measuring the Patient Experience: Lessons From Other Industries.” The authors contend that although the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey provides “important insights” into the patient experience, it was not designed to provide the level of detail needed to link patient satisfaction with business performance.

Common sense tells us it’s time for healthcare entities to think more like other industries, given the degree to which today’s market is consumer-driven. And the McKinsey report says a large part of success lies in taking a more holistic approach than that of the HCAHPS survey by:

  1. Linking patient satisfaction to business outcomes. In this stage, your organization determines the business outcome you most want to focus on (e.g., volume, percentage of commercial patients) and conducts research to establish what questions would enable you to gauge patient satisfaction in a way that ties to those objectives. Next, you conduct research to identify the factors that most strongly influence how patients respond to the chosen questions and the metrics that would allow you to assess performance in those areas.
  2. Identifying the strongest influences on patient satisfaction. This stage is about understanding the patient journey from start to finish, including scheduling, initial assessment, clinician follow-up, pricing, and the influence of things like branding. The report authors say it’s critical to remember that (a) the factors with the strongest influence vary by patient segment and market and (b) what patients say is important to them does not always correlate with how satisfied they actually were.
  3. Uncovering operational insights. This is the crux of what the authors advocate—developing key performance indicators (KPIs) just like leading customer-service companies have. Each factor that matters to your business is broken down into something that can be measured and monitored. For example, amount of time a caregiver spends with a patient and how long it takes for someone to respond to a patient request (e.g., changing visits to a different time).

Anthony Cirillo, president of The Aging Experience, agrees that focusing on culture is more important than focusing on scores. “When you get the big picture of patient satisfaction, you understand that when you provide person-centered care, all else follows—satisfaction scores, safety, quality,” he says.

Cirillo observes that the most significant thing non-healthcare entities understand is that every aspect of the organization impacts the experience. “From intake to billing, it all matters,” he says.

To that end, Cirillo advises home health organizations to emulate other in-home services. “Concentrate on businesses that go into the home for non-medical services and products,” he says. “What makes them exceed expectations?”

Learn how home health organizations are helping hospitals improve their patient satisfaction scores.

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