In many ways, a hospital’s HCAHPS (the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) score serves as its report card, highlighting specific areas in which an organization may excel or require improvement. HCAHPS scores, or patient satisfaction scores, are a quantifiable measurement of patients’ engagement in their health journey; as such, these scores are critical markers that can not only affect the reputation of a hospital, but also its financial health.
Oftentimes, patient dissatisfaction can be tied to inconsistent, confusing or untimely communication between providers and those seeking care. Kara Beech, the owner and lead consultant at Beech Creative Group, says healthcare organizations looking to improve their HCAHPS scores should not underestimate the importance of streamlined and sophisticated communication strategies.
“If COVID and the past year has taught us anything, it has really underscored the importance of communication across all stages of the patient journey,” Beech says. “Now organizations know just how quickly everything can change, which is why it is essential for a hospital to figure out its best communications strategy so everyone can know what is expected of them and why.”
Of course, improving communications may sound like a relatively simple task, but Beech notes that identifying specific problem areas and opening up lines of communication does not happen overnight.
“You have to get to the root of the problem,” Beech says. “All team members are vital, but you need to think about who patients see and interact with on a daily basis. Problems could begin at the front desk when a patient gets admitted or a situation could arise in billing with a family member. Or consider what happens in between those steps when patients interact with lab techs, dieticians or even housekeeping staff. All of these layers impact patient care and quality scores.”
After pinpointing one goal, Beech says getting an action plan together has to be the next step. Building concrete goals begins with having honest conversations about how to create reasonable expectations in behavior, whether within departments, among specific staff or across the entire enterprise.
“Real change can’t be about instant gratification,” Beech says. “It’s nice to think that a real change in process can be identified on Monday and solved by Friday, but it isn’t realistic.”
Encouraging vulnerability is another tenet of refining teamwork within an organization. This means recognizing that not everyone may communicate the same or know a certain procedure or process inside and out. Beech says creating a culture of transparency where questions are encouraged is essential in driving measurable improvements.
Why are we doing this? Where is this written down? What is our action plan? What is the best possible outcome? What do we need to do to get there?
“These are small questions that can make a huge difference,” Beech says.
Developing an action plan is about building accountability, so you can make measurable improvements toward accomplishing it. Still, Beech encourages teams to start small.
“Ask yourself, your managers or your organizations’ leaders to pick one thing,” Beech says. “What’s that one small thing that you can make work? Once you achieve that, then you can build on that success. Don’t aim for the pie in the sky or the cherry on top. Figure out the root of the problem and fix that first, so you can continue to build on those positive accomplishments moving forward.”
To learn more about the important role streamlined communication plays across a patient’s healthcare continuum, tune in to the webinar Action Planning and Communication: The Vital Elements of Patient Engagement on June 17 at noon. Led by Beech, the webinar will help participants create actionable steps and best practices to drive improvements in patient experience. Reserve your spot today.