"We are very transparent with the data. That is very important for us," she says. "The results are posted in every department every month so staff can see how their unit is trending over time. Also, if you are a patient or a family member, you will see this patient experience information as well. Again, that lets staff know how important this is to us as an organization and how seriously we all need to take this."
David Hughes, chief financial officer at Greenville, North Carolina–based Vidant Health, a nine-hospital system with 1,488 beds and $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2013 operating revenue, agrees that when it comes to enhancing HCAHPS scores, being open with data is essential.
"You can't be afraid to share the data," he says. "Put it in an open place for patients and families to see. It will be a motivator for staff to say that if the scores are not what you want, then you are the folks with the ability to do something about it. … If we are embarrassed by the data, we are in control of it, and we can fix it."
Mark Rumans, MD, Vidant's chief medical officer, says receiving data from the HCAHPS survey as quickly as possible is another important factor in making patient care improvements.
"We switched to a phone survey instead of the mailed survey to get a faster response and a quicker turnaround," he says. "We now get the information back on a weekly refresh and are able to provide it in a more real-time fashion so the data is more operational and targets can be achieved more easily."
To encourage its staff to focus on improving HCAHPS scores, Vidant has adjusted its incentive plan to include quality metrics.
"We are really trying to tie quality and finance together," Hughes says. "In the past, our employees had the ability to earn incentives strictly on meeting financial margins. We have split that in half so now half is based on HCAHPS scores and the other half is based on margins."
In total, employees can earn an extra $1,000 per year through the incentive program. "It isn't a percentage and it isn't a huge number, but it is enough to raise employees' eyebrows and get them to say, 'How can I help?' It also got us more disciplined about communicating with our employees on a regular basis. They use the information in their weekly huddles to ask how they can prevent problems from happening with the patients who are here today," Hughes says.
Rene Letourneau is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.