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Easing Patient Fears Can Raise HCAHPS Scores

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, September 28, 2011

As a part of the patient empathy project, Sweeney received dozens of postcards with anonymous patient fears on them. Postcard messages included statements about fears of loneliness, how hospitals smell like death, and worries that the doctors and nurses do not really care.

Under Sweeney's leadership, Memorial began implementing practices to address patient fears. Starting in April, nurses in the childbirth unit were required to ask every patient if she had fear or anxiety about her hospitalization. Nurses were then able to check off the appropriate boxes on the electronic health record and follow up on the patient's specific fears by pointing the patient to the appropriate resource:

Worried about cost? We have someone who can help you with that. Worried about the procedure? Here is some extra information.

Adding a "fears" check box in the EMR was a quick solution, Sweeney says. Asking the patient about their fears has also contributed to Memorial's Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.

Prior to the nurses asking, patients' 'likelihood to recommend' score was 81.5. After 90 days of asking 'what is your greatest fear or concern around your hospitalization?' the score increased to 83.5 and is currently 85.5.

"The huge result of having nurses ask the question is that it has changed their view of caring for the patient and [made them] realize that they were neglecting the very thing that concerned the patient the most," Sweeney says. "And to ask the question is the only way to arrive at truly 'patient-centered care.'"

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6 comments on "Easing Patient Fears Can Raise HCAHPS Scores"


Brittany Howze (10/16/2011 at 9:56 PM)
"eye rolling nurses"....this lady conveys a total lack of respect in one statement. With an attitude like that, I bet she would be extremely afraid to be a patient in her own hospital.

Helon Shoemake (10/5/2011 at 11:28 AM)
Thank you Linda Conner for posting this article. A patient's perceived fear may be irrelevant and magnified[INVALID]none-the-less, it is real and felt fear within the mind of the patient. A few thoughtful, targeted. and caring inquiries can change the entire patient experience and I am happy that health providers are doing just that!

David C. Baker (9/29/2011 at 4:50 PM)
At Meritus Medical Center our clincally-trained chaplains have the time and the mission to ask people how they are and what they are feeling. Acknowledging and addressing their fears is part of the job. Such is one best practice that Spiritual Care Services adopt in our efforts to improve our HCAHPS scores. DCB