Checklist: How to Improve Patient Experience & Satisfaction Scores

Checklist: How to Improve Patient Experience & Patient Satisfaction Scores

April 29th through May 3rd is Patient Experience Week 2024, a time to focus on the importance of the patient’s perspective in successful healthcare delivery. It’s also a great time for exploring how to improve patient experience year-round — and how patient satisfaction scores are key to doing so.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at the link between patient experience and satisfaction scores, plus the winning formula to improve both, from staffing to technology.

Why Patient Experience Matters

Defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as “the range of interactions that patients have with the healthcare system,” patient experience has become an increasing point of focus in healthcare over the past decades.

And it’s not hard to understand why. Engagement is widely acknowledged as an effective way to improve outcomes. The better engaged patients are, the more likely they’ll be to adhere to treatment, medication, and even self-management. As such, promoting a better patient experience has been embraced as a worthy investment for many providers.

What’s more, CMS reimbursement is increasingly linked to survey-based patient satisfaction scores. Those same scores can affect referrals and the number of new patients. They can also impact accreditation and employee retention. So, the question of how to improve patient experience affects the bottom line for most providers in the United States.

Challenges to Improving the Patient Experience

But even though it’s obviously a worthy goal, it isn’t always clear just how to improve patient experience. From online appointment setting to discharge surveys, a patient’s entire “range of interactions” includes many touchpoints. And the best way to balance them all will differ for every organization, facility, and setting.

Yet some challenges affect the entire industry. For instance, the shortage of qualified staff may not affect every area in the same way. Some facilities experience understaffing, while others may experience it in the surging cost of labor. Both situations pose a serious threat to an organization’s ability to deliver the best possible patient experience.

The Role of Patient Satisfaction Scores

If that sounds daunting, there’s good news, too. Today, providers can get a good understanding of how to improve patient experience with the satisfaction scores they already compile. After all, few other tools could better measure the patient experience than the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS, or HCAHPS for Hospital CAHPS).  

A standardized system for evaluating and publicly reporting patient satisfaction, CAHPS surveys are mandatory for Medicare or Medicaid participation. They also determine payment through the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program. And they’re also an excellent way to capture patient satisfaction with communication, cleanliness, and a host of other key criteria.

Improving Patient Experience & Patient Satisfaction: Essential Checklist

Most providers have little choice but to embrace CAHPS surveys. But doing so can yield benefits beyond maximizing reimbursement — such as answering the question of how to improve patient experience. And, while each team’s winning formula will be unique, there are nine core elements that will always matter: time, cleanliness, communication, feedback, tech, data, personalization, rapport, and staff.

#1: Time

Punctuality — i.e., showing respect for your patients’ time — is key to a positive patient experience. Putting in the extra work to keep wait times to an absolute minimum can boost patient satisfaction. And by helping keep them engaged, it may also support positive outcomes.

#2: Cleanliness

Ensuring that every aspect of a facility is as clean as possible is key for safety. It’s also a core component to CAHPS patient satisfaction scores — and a relatively easy way to instantly improve patient experience.

#3: Communication

The better people understand their condition — and what they need to do about it — the better chance they’ll have of a speedy and successful recovery. This means having someone on staff with the skills to speak in plain language rather than medical jargon. It also means offering transparency and accessibility — and that applies to everything from simple, colorful patient brochures to an easy-to-navigate website.  

#4: Feedback

Actively gathering feedback can also help providers stay ahead of unexpected patient satisfaction scores. Getting criticism in advance means problems can be solved at an early stage, before they affect more people. Feedback can come from CAHPS/HCAHPS results, as well as internal surveys (electronic or paper) or discharge calls. Social media channels and online reviews can provide less direct feedback, too.

#5: Technology

Like it or not, technology has become central to the patient experience. Today’s healthcare consumers all but demand to access their care, either online or via app. Subsequently, embracing those technologies, like healthcare MSP, can help providers can also improve efficiency and potentially save money by streamlining and automating key processes.

#6: Data

Another huge benefit of technology is the collection and use of data it enables. Whether it comes from an EHR system or HCAHPS survey results, today’s advanced technology can apply AI and machine learning to quickly analyze and assess data in a way that helps healthcare providers make better, faster decisions — and keeps patients and residents safe, healthy, and happy.

> Pro tip: Data requires protection: get strategies for successful healthcare cybersecurity here.

#7: Personalization

Data also helps providers deliver an experience that’s truly personalized to the needs of each patient. This improves patient experience by making calls and online interactions faster and less likely to cause frustration. It also helps engage patients and encourages them to take an active role in their care. And it can nurture trust by making patients feel like their provider truly knows them and understands their experience.

#8: Staff

True to the spirit of Patient Experience Week and its goal of supporting essential workers, focusing on staff can be another way to improve patient experience. Studies have long suggested a connection between staffing levels and patient satisfaction. By investing in additional workers (or contingency staff), providers can better ensure that no need is unmet among patients and residents.

#9: Rapport

Personalization also helps providers achieve a closer rapport with patients. Quality of communication and understanding are central to patient satisfaction scores, and both can be improved with empathy and trust. Employers can work toward this goal with staff training that focuses on attentiveness and empathy. They can also support certification that focus on patient safety and quality of care.

Improve Patient Experience and Satisfaction Now

Exploring how to improve patient experience and satisfaction scores in your facility? We can help by delivering access to the nation’s best network of travel nurses and other contingency workers. Contact CareerStaff here to find out how our Joint Commission-Certified staffing solutions can help your organization. Or, request staff today.

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