Candid Comments Make HCAHPS Results Even More Valuable
By Robert J. Ogden, Senior Consultant (HCAHPS & Other Surveys), HealthStream
At the end of the HealthStream HCAHPS survey interview, patients have an opportunity to make a comment about their recent hospital experience, using our Voice of the Patient enhancement. This feedback provides valuable qualitative information that supplements the quantitative data we gather.
Why Aren’t Patient Comments More Common?
Recently, one of our clients asked a client services manager why don’t more patients, if they are unhappy, voice their concerns or issues when they have a chance to make a comment at the end of their HCAHPS survey?
This is actually a very common question. If you are a hospital leader, nurse manager, service excellence coordinator, or someone else charged with improving your HCAHPS scores, you have probably heard that question before, or maybe asked it yourself.
Most Patients are Happy
When answering this question, there are several things to consider. First, it’s important to keep in mind that patients are very happy for the most part. Consider that on a scale of 0-10, more than 70% of patients rate their overall experience either a 9 or 10, and another approximately 20% rate their experience a 7 or 8. Less than 10% of patients rate their hospital experience a 6 or lower. So, while hospitals may be struggling to improve those last few points to differentiate themselves from the competition, the bar is set very high.
Unfortunately, it isn’t unusual to see some extreme responses to one end of the scale or the other, and then see the respondent indicate that they do not have an open-ended response. Some respondents may have a difficult time putting into words their thoughts or may be reluctant to have their thoughts recorded. Ultimately, I believe the reason most patients do not leave comments is because they are generally happy with the care they received and feel they have nothing outstanding to share.
We Wish We Could Ask for “Always.” We Can’t.
Another common question we get is why we can’t ask a patient why they did not give us an “always” or rate us a “9 or 10.” If only patients would tell us exactly why they did not rate us an “always” or a “9 or 10,” then we would know more precisely what the patient expects, right? While it would be nice if we could ask patients why they did not give us top box ratings, the CMS HCAHPS Quality Assurance Guidelines specifically prohibit asking patients questions like this to prevent introducing bias into the survey results.
Get More Comments by Explaining the Survey and Its Value
So what is a hospital to do to increase the number of comments from patients? I encourage hospital staff to inform patients that HealthStream may contact them by telephone to complete a short survey about their hospital experience. Your staff can inform patients of the survey upon admission, during discharge counseling with the patient and family, and prior to leaving the hospital. Make patients aware that if they are selected to complete the survey, they will be given an opportunity to make comments at the end of the survey. Encourage patients to make comments by letting them know how the hospital values their input.
What about your hospital? How do you let patients know they may be called to share their hospital experience? Do you encourage feedback from your patients?
Learn More about HealthStream's Patient Insights Survey/HCAHPS Services.
Learn More about HealthStream's Voice of the Patient Survey Enhancement.