California hospitals amp up customer service to boost HCAHPS scores, reimbursement

Unhappy with their state-wide patient satisfaction scores, hospitals in California are launching new initiatives aimed to make patients and staff happier--and boost federal reimbursements linked to the scores.

California hospitals--in response to the Affordable Care Act, which links hospitals payments to how well they treat patients as reflected in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS)--have created customer service positions, changed security procedures and now measure noise volume outside patient rooms, according to California Healthline.

One of the first areas of business: Cleaning up patient rooms from top to bottom, HealthyCal reports.

For example, at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora, staff follow a 78-item checklist that ranges from waxing floors to tightening plumbing connections and disassembling ceiling ducts to replace air filters.

It's not just about cleanliness, it's about state of mind, Patrick Kegin, chief patient experience officer at Citrus Valley Health Partners, a Southern California consortium that includes Foothill Presbyterian and three other medical centers, told HealthyCal.

"If you go to a group of well-meaning staff members who are working in a system that has broken processes and you ask them to start being kinder and more deliberate with the patients, they're going to say, 'You know what you can do for me? Fix this place. Let's make this place cleaner,'" Patrick Kegin, chief patient experience officer at Citrus Valley Health Partners told HealthyCal.

"We need to establish hospital environments that work. If we do that, it benefits the patients," he said.

In the most recent HCAHPS surveys, the article reports that about three quarters of patients in California said their nurses always communicated well. Slightly fewer said their room and bathroom were always clean and about half reported that the area around their room was always quiet at night. Responses in all three areas in the HCAHPS tool were below the national average

But hospitals are seeing improvements. Baljeet Sangha, chief experience officer at San Francisco General Hospital, told HealthyCal that since the organization installed devices to monitor the volume of conversation and other work-related noise, patient satisfaction over nighttime noise has doubled between April and June, Sangha said.

For more:
- read the HealthyCal article
- check out the California Healthline article
- here are the national HCAHPS scores