It was back in the mid 1900’s that patient satisfaction assessments were first introduced. Designed to allow meaningful comparisons of healthcare quality by standardizing how satisfaction experience is measured, many hospitals see these assessments today, as a useful tool which helps to identify areas for improvement and raise the overall quality of service.
But whilst these surveys might be good from a governmental perspective to ensure minimum standards and even from a patient’s perspective as a way to make informed decisions around future medical procedures – a standardized assessment system is not necessarily good for all hospitals. In fact, if you’re a hospital relying solely on mandated governmental surveys (such as HCAHPS) as a barometer to understand the quality of the patient experience you deliver – there’s every chance that you’ll end up at the bottom of the pile when it comes to patient choice.
Here’s a look at just some of the inherent problems associated with mandated and standardized government surveys as it stands today:
- Low return rates for completed forms (approx. 33%)
- Big delays in returning forms (up to 6 months) meaning data collected may not even be relevant by the time it’s processed
- The form is not filled out at the point of care delivery and so it is reliant on the patient’s memory of the experience and their mood on the day when they fill in their form
- The end report does not include ALL patient feedback. If a form is partially filled in or if it’s illegible, it cannot be included.
- The very nature of government surveys being standardized in a “one size fits all” approach means the questions are designed to be as broad and as inclusive as possible. They are not designed to provide specific feedback on the unique facilities and service that your hospital provides.
The fact is, even if you do get strong scores through the mandated government surveys, those scores are out of date before they’ve even reached you. It can take up to 6 months for someone to return their completed form and to have that data included in your statistics. But that’s not all. The survey scores made available for public consumption are the average score from 4 consecutive quarters*. Put those two facts together and it means that patient experiences from 18 months ago could still be influencing your most recent survey scores. Mandated government surveys then, is not an indication of the quality of care in a hospital today and that means if you’re measuring yourself against other hospitals as the standardized surveys was designed to encourage – you’re comparing patient standards that you no longer have, with patient standards that other hospitals also no longer have. It’s not the most productive exercise if you’re looking to deliver the very best patient experience possible.
A far better option, if you’re serious about the patient experience – is to collect feedback electronically at the point of care delivery. By using a selection of short, customized electronic forms, patients can provide their thoughts on the patient experience whilst they’re experiencing it, or at least prior to the point of being discharged. Hospitals get a far better quality of feedback, a far higher return rate and the simple fact that you are talking to and listening to your patients at the point of care delivery improves the patient experience in itself.
It certainly beats the chore of having to take a form home, fill it in and post it back during a patient’s recovery.
By asking for regular feedback electronically, hospitals can monitor progress, identify trends and most importantly, rectify issues immediately. Done this way, it’s not just the patient experience that’s improved, it’s the rate of improvement that is also improved. Just imagine the level of feedback and the number of improvements that could be made in a 6-month period… the time it takes for some mandated surveys to be completed, returned and included in your overall survey score. Now imagine that effect over a 5 or 10-year period.
But let’s not beat up the mandated government surveys too much. It’s a great way for patients to make an informed choice about where their next medical procedure should take place and it’s also a great way for hospitals to give themselves a pat on the back if they’re doing well. What it isn’t though, is a tool to measure the state of patient care right now within your unique hospital and if you are using it to do this, there’s every chance – as other hospitals around you stride ahead, that your hospital will end up at the very bottom of the patient experience table.
Of course if you’re serious about improving the patient experience you’ll want to come and talk to the team at HCXperience Inc. Our industry leading patient satisfaction solution allows hospitals to provide patients with simple, electronic patient experience surveys at the point of care delivery. Collected data can be instantly compiled, analysed and even benchmarked against national averages in seconds.
Want to know more? You can contact us right now on 707.654.HCXP (4297)