BY LEANN DILBECK –
Mena Regional Health System is hoping that by increasing the awareness of the significance of an exit survey to the local hospital, they can increase the return rate.
As part of the continuing evolution of the healthcare system, hospitals who accept Medicare/Medicaid payments are required to administer a 27-question survey upon treating patients, HCAHPS – Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health providers and Systems survey. Scores based on these surveys are crucial in assisting the hospital in evaluating the overall patient experience.
The hospital is scored on two levels: 1.) quality and 2.) patient experience. In quality, the MRHS ranks within the state’s top facilities and those measures are taken independently of the patient experience. Both are reported on www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare as a resource for patients in evaluating healthcare facilities.
The entire patient experience is based solely on the surveys that are returned from the patient. Chief Nursing Officer Rick Billingsley stated that these surveys are mailed by a third party to patients approximately 6 weeks after their visit to MRHS. Patients are provided a self-addressed stamped envelope in which to return the completed survey. Complete anonymity is maintained. Currently, he explained, less than 100 completed surveys are returned each quarter and is not a representative sample of the 4,000 to 5,000 patients seen during that time frame.
MRHS Administrator Tim Bowen explained that the information obtained on the survey is crucial to the local hospital in two ways. First, he explained, the information will assist all staff in exceeding the patient’s expectations regarding nurse and doctor communication, responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, communication regarding medications, and discharge information. “We are patient-family centered and focused. We strive on a daily basis to exceed what patients expect from us as their local hospital.” The second factor of how the scores impact the hospital is that they directly correlate to the reimbursement rate.
Adding to the complexity of the issue, Billingsley explained, is that in the 4-possible answers listed, only one – ALWAYS – is credited as a positive response.
Bowen explained that feedback from patients and their families have been instrumental in assisting the hospital in making improvements. Most recently, he explained, the hospital has begun a “Quiet Time” from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. in which activity and noise in the hallways is kept to a minimum as well as visits to the patient’s room. All in an effort, he said, to improve the overall patient experience.
They have also introduced a number of employee recognition and incentive programs with the philosophy, Billingsley explained, “happy employees equal happy patients.”
Bowen said he is confident that by sharing the importance of the surveys with the local community that it will be the added incentive needed to encourage them to take the time to complete and return them because of how supportive this community has always been to the local hospital. His goal is to increase the number of surveys returned to 400 to 500 per quarter.