In the era of transparency, when HCAHPS scores are publicly reported, healthcare leaders have a vested interest in improving patient satisfaction. But I think there is some confusion out there about what the ultimate goal is. Is it to create a more positive patient experience or to just get better scores? At face value, you might think that the two are one and the same. Not so. I find that when the pressure is on to improve the scores, people start to strategize more about how to influence the patient rather than focusing on a better experience that will earn them the top scores. Somehow, people have managed to separate the patient’s experience from the scores.
The patient satisfaction scores should be respected as a report card for the patient experience. That means owning them. If you don’t like the scores, work on changing the experience, not changing the patient’s mind. I recently had a conversation with a nurse manager who said, “We need the patients to understand if they don’t rate us a 9 or 10, it doesn’t count.” Her remarks demonstrated that her goal was to pressure the patient into giving them a top score, regardless of what the patient actually experienced. First of all, this approach would not comply with CMS guidelines. But equally important is that doing that would be like calling your college professor and telling him that, regardless of the quality of your essay exam, he should give you an A because you need a better grade point average. You wouldn’t dream of doing that and yet, many healthcare leaders don’t hesitate to try to influence the patient into giving them a better grade.
Ask yourself if your focus is the score or the experience. Are they intertwined in your strategy? If not, they should be. Make sure you are focusing on getting better, not just on getting better scores. Own the scores and earn the scores. And lastly, make sure your whole team sees how the two are intertwined.