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New Survey Provides Hospitals With Patient Feedback

In the days after a stroke it is important to be in a clean, comfortable facility with a responsive staff. A new survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) can help you determine which hospitals in your region have been ranked highly by other healthcare consumers in these areas and others. By combining the feedback of 7,500 patients a day into an online database, HCAHPS strives to make providers more accountable and consumer information more available.

As of January, 2012, approximately 2.7 million HCAHPS surveys have been tallied. The influence of HCAHPS has turned patient satisfaction into one of the most important topics in health care today. Hospitals are currently working hard to improve their satisfaction scores – and they have good reason to do so, as their Medicare reimbursement rates can be raised or lowered by two percent depending on their HCAHPS results.

With their bottom lines at stake, you can be sure that hospitals have turned a keen eye toward the patients’ perception of the care they’ve received. By filling out and returning the HCAHPS questionnaire, if you receive one, you are helping to ensure that other hospitalized patients – including stroke survivors -- will be more satisfied with their overall hospital experience.

How exactly does HCAHPS work?

If you’re randomly chosen to receive a HCAHPS survey after your hospital discharge, you’ll be asked to answer roughly 30 questions on topics that include how well the hospital staff communicated with you, how clean and quiet your room was, how well your pain was managed, and how clearly your doctor explained your medications to you. The survey is designed to allow objective and meaningful comparisons between hospitals. This way, consumers can view the rankings online so they can make empowered choices regarding their own health care.

Leaders within the nursing profession see HCAHPS as a positive and unexpected opportunity to enhance the quality of nursing care – and perhaps to let nurses work more collaboratively with physicians, as the entire care team is called upon to enhance the patient’s experience. This more holistic approach has obvious benefits for all patients – but it’s easy to see how it will particularly benefit stroke patients, who may have trouble speaking, feeding themselves, or getting to the bathroom. Hospitalized stroke patients need not only crucial medical interventions from skilled neurologists, but the comfort measures and patient advocacy that nurses excel in.

A spotlight on discharge planning

HCAHPS may also reduce the likelihood that you’ll end up right back in the hospital too soon after your discharge. There are several survey questions that assess how well the hospital staff prepared you for the care transition and whether they left you with a thorough understanding of the things you were responsible for in managing your own health at home – including taking your medications correctly. Some of these questions are in the form of statements that you’re asked to respond to using a four-point scale, with responses ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. These are:

  • During this hospital stay, staff took my preferences and those of my family or caregiver into account in deciding what my health care needs would be when I left.
  • When I left the hospital, I had a good understanding of the things I was responsible for in managing my health.
  • When I left the hospital, I clearly understood the purpose for taking each of my medications.

Since HCAHPS puts emphasis on the discharge-planning process, hospitals will undoubtedly feel compelled to create more personalized discharge plans for all patients. Discharge planning is especially important for stroke survivors, who potentially face a long recovery and a variety of lifestyle changes, whether the next step is involves returning home or moving to a rehabilitation facility.

As hospitals put a greater emphasis on clear communication and effective instructions, consumers will be able to voice their own preferences and concerns, ensuring a safer recovery at home. As a stroke survivor, you and your family should take advantage of this improved discharge planning process, by participating fully in all discussions about your post-discharge needs. And you can help ensure that the patient perspective is well represented, by filling out and returning the HCAHPS survey, if you receive one.

By: Dr. Elaine Townsley, chief nursing officer of CNC, Inc. and adjunct faculty for American Sentinel University.

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"Combining the feedback of 7,500 patients a day into an online database the HCAHPS makes providers more accountable and honest consumer information more available."

Quality Care for the Consumer

  • A new survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems can help you decide where the best treatment facilities are in your region.
  • Facilities have incentive to improve their quality of care because Medicare reimbursement rates can be raised or lowered by two percent depending on their HCAHPS results.
  • The HCAHPS surveys patients on how well the hospital staff communicated with you, how clean and quiet your room was, how well your pain was managed, and how clearly your doctor explained your medications to you.
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