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Better HCAHPS Scores Protect Revenue

News  |  By Rene Letourneau  
   September 28, 2016

Providing an excellent patient experience is tied more closely than ever to reimbursements.

This article first appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

It has always been a moral imperative for hospitals and health systems to provide a high-quality patient experience, but now that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is tying reimbursements to HCAHPS scores, it's becoming a financial priority, as well.

Through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, patients rate their inpatient stay in 27 categories, ranging from communication with doctors and nurses to pain management to facility cleanliness and quietness. Based in part on these scores, hospitals can either lose or gain up to 1.5% of their Medicare payments in fiscal year 2015. CMS will up the ante over the next few years, with 2% of reimbursement dollars ultimately being at risk by fiscal year 2017.

With a growing amount of revenue at stake, hospital leaders are looking for strategies to improve the patient experience and boost their HCAHPS scores.

Focusing on culture

Oxnard, California-based St. John's Hospitals, a Dignity Health member with 330 licensed beds and a $350 million annual operating budget, has been intensely focused on improving patient satisfaction for the past three years.

In 2010 and 2011, St. John's HCAHPS scores ranked in the bottom quartile within Dignity Health. After seeing such disappointing results for two consecutive years, the leadership team set out to improve the patient experience—something CEO Laurie Harting says starts with the overall culture of the organization. Harting also serves as senior vice president of operations for Dignity Health's Southern California West service area.

Rene Letourneau is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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