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HCAHPS Scores Show Wide Variation

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 30, 2012

The hospital recently endured a 100-person staff layoff, and is struggling with employee morale. "We are still working with our nursing issues, trying to convey that the call bell is everybody's call bell and the call light is everybody's call light."  Additionally, she says, "we've had some issues with our physicians, a lot of older physicians."  St. Joseph's recently contracted with Drexel University to provide some University-based doctors in an effort to align with a large academic center.

At Lehigh, a comment from CEO Joanie Jeannette is posted on the Lehigh's website:
"We want to make sure that you are extremely satisfied with the care you receive.  If at any time you are not satisfied with your care, please let us know.  All of our staff is committed to achieving your standards of excellence.

"Following your stay with us, you may receive a survey in the mail asking for your feedback.  I hope you will take a few minutes to fill it out and let us know how we are doing.  Again, it is both an honor and a privilege to serve you and we want to make sure we provide you and your family the very best of care… Always."

In response to an inquiry, Lehigh marketing director Diann Cimring replies: We are constantly striving to achieve the highest level of patient satisfaction, and have implemented processes and procedures to ensure that the patients receive the finest quality healthcare at Lehigh Regional Medical Center. However we are constantly measuring scores and processes in order to give our patients the best experience and to exceed their expectations."

 

In general, hospitals that scored poorly indicate that they have a harder road to climb because of their demographics. But while CMS spokeswoman Cohen acknowledges that smaller rural and specialty hospitals "tend to score more highly on HCAHPS compared to larger, urban and general hospitals" that's not a reason to give the hospitals a statistical break or correct the data to reflect that.

"These are hospital, not patient characteristics, it is not appropriate to adjust for these characteristics," she says.  And besides, many hospitals that are poor and large and in urban areas do well on the HCAHPS, and likewise, some hospitals that are small and in rural communities do poorly.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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2 comments on "HCAHPS Scores Show Wide Variation"


Linda Reiser (6/25/2012 at 3:57 PM)
I just read the article about HCAHPS which described the high and low scoring hospitals around the country. There was a quote which was a little disturbing. One of the rules surrounding HCAHPS says that hospitals should not in any way try to influence the scores. This includes using the language such as "always" which is the response we all want the patients to give! At Lehigh, a comment from CEO Joanie Jeannette is posted on the Lehigh's website: "We want to make sure that you are extremely satisfied with the care you receive. If at any time you are not satisfied with your care, please let us know. All of our staff is committed to achieving your standards of excellence. "Following your stay with us, you may receive a survey in the mail asking for your feedback. I hope you will take a few minutes to fill it out and let us know how we are doing. Again, it is both an honor and a privilege to serve you and we want to make sure we provide you and your family the very best of care... Always." We are told we should not use such language in order to be non-influential in the scoring. Does anyone else think this is influencing the responses unfairly?

Ardella Eagle (5/31/2012 at 9:51 AM)
As the CMMS swings over to using HCAHPS as a sliderule for payment reductions as suggested in the Affordable Care Act, you will see many of these 'demographically' challenged hospitals close down due to the inability to make ends meet. A very sad thing indeed. Using the general public as a measure on whether a provider should be paid is not a good idea. Pay for services rendered. Research if the service provided is being billed at a comprable rate and penalize the providers who are 'overcharging'. The current system of the fee schedule encourages physicians to bill the maximum allowed knowing that their fees will be reduced, then further cut due to contractual agreements.