4 Best Practices for Boosting Your HCAHPS Scores: 2019 Update

May 16, 2019

In 2019, HCAHPS scores continue to be extremely important for hospitals and health systems. Providing high quality patient experiences is a financial priority, as HCAHPS scores determine up to 2 percent of Medicare payments.

The scores are also published on Medicare’s Hospital Compare, where patients can choose which hospital to visit based on HCAHPS scores, compared to state and national averages. As the number of high-deductible health plans grows, patients acting as consumers in choosing their health systems based on metrics like these is more likely to increase as well.

As the voice of the patient, the scores reflect the patient experience. Every interaction with both clinical and non-clinical care team members can influence how patients respond to the all-important survey after they’re discharged.

So, how can you boost your HCAHPS scores? Here are four ways technology can help improve care team response and collaboration to provide the best patient experience possible.

1. Rapid ResponseB051519-1.jpg

One of the nine HCAHPS measures is “responsiveness of hospital staff.” Since public reporting began, the average response has increased from 60 to 70 percent. That’s a nice jump, but there’s still room to improve, and the right technology can help inform clinicians when and where they need to take action.

Poor communications can negatively impact the quality and speed (“responsiveness”) of patient care. For example, if calls for assistance go to a central nursing station, someone must track down the nurse assigned to that patient and relay the message before anyone can actually respond to the patient’s need.

Hospitals can cut out these time-consuming steps with software that sends request notifications from the patient’s nurse call button directly to the correct caregiver’s mobile device. The nurse can then directly connect to the patient’s pillow speaker to determine their need. If the patient just wants a glass of water, the nurse might direct it to a non-clinical staff member to fulfill that request. If the patient is in pain, he is able to respond directly and immediately. A speedy response to a patient request helps to reduce stress and increase satisfaction.

2.B051519-2.jpg Nix the Noise

The “quietness of the hospital environment” frequently ranks lowest among the HCAHPS survey categories, as it did in the most recent report. Recent research demonstrates the importance of sleep and plenty of rest to the healing process, yet we know hospitals can be noisy places with numerous beeps, overhead paging, and hallway conversations.

Among the biggest noise culprits are patient monitoring alarms, whose sounding frequency is a major contributor to clinician alarm fatigue, which has been labeled a patient safety hazard. While critical alarms should never be disabled, hospitals can take steps reduce their frequency. Programming device parameters to trigger alerts only when an actionable threshold is reached is one way to reduce false positives that disrupt patient rest.

Mobile device notifications are another way to promote a quiet environment for rest and healing. Integrated call notification and staff assignment systems reduce overhead paging by routing patient alarm notifications directly to appropriate staff. Mobile devices can also support solutions for secure messaging among care team members, which cuts down on hallway conversations—which helps improve the security of protected health information and further minimize patient and family disturbance. 

View our eBrief on how technology helps improve your HCAHPS scores for more helpful tips and tricks.

3. Palliate PainB051519-3.jpg

The longer patients are in pain, the unhappier they’ll be. Communication problems among the members of the care team can cause many delays to alleviating pain. An important first step to help minimize the delay is to ensure the patient receives a fast response to the nurse call button. A good system will route alerts to the primary nurse or escalate the request to another clinician if the primary nurse is unavailable.

While an existing order in the patient’s chart allows the nurse to administer pain relief right away, if no order exists, the nurse must first consult with the patient’s physician. An efficient communication system with an online enterprise directory and on-call schedules makes finding and connecting to the physician quick and easy. Then, the nurse can send a secure text directly to the physician requesting more pain relief.  At that point, the physician can enter a new order immediately or call the nurse back for more information. Either way, the time between the patient’s request and the care team’s ability to provide pain relief can be reduced significantly.

4. Drama-free DischargeB051519-4.jpg

When patients are ready to go home, they expect a smooth and efficient discharge process from the hospital. Communication breakdowns among the care team often cause unnecessary delays and leave patients with a poor experience right before they exit through the hospital doors and may respond to the HCAHPS questionnaire. The discharge process is the patient’s last memory of their hospital stay, and a technology solution that supports secure messaging can help streamline and accelerate the discharge process. Clinical care team members can communicate and agree that the patient is ready for discharge and can coordinate on discharge instructions, etc. Once the discharge order is entered in the EHR, the non-clinical care team members like transport, environmental services, and even the valet can be notified to prepare for the patient’s departure and the next patient’s arrival. By improving the communication across the whole care team, the discharge process can be more streamlined, and patients and their families are able to leave sooner, and hopefully happier.

While hospitals have done much to improve HCAHPS scores, there’s still a long road ahead. Patient satisfaction is influenced by many factors, but at the core of nearly every interaction with hospital staff is communication. Communication technology can help improve the patient experience by quickly connecting everyone involved in patient care, including the patient.

Interested in reading more? View the eBrief: Five Ways Technology Helps Improve your HCAHPS Scores




By Katie Cornwell, MSN, NNP-BC, CNS

Katie Cornwell is Director of Clinical and Product Marketing at Spok. She has over 20 years of experience in the clinical, medical device, and healthcare IT fields. Katie has worked at the bedside as a neonatal and pediatric critical care nurse, Nurse Practitioner, and Clinical Nurse Specialist. Prior to joining Spok, Katie also held roles in medical device product management and in healthcare IT product management and marketing. She earned her BSN from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Masters NNP and CNS degrees from Duke University. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.

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