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How Real-Time Patient Surveys Go Beyond HCAHPS

Acute Care July 22, 2021

When the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys were initially integrated into the healthcare ecosystem, their purpose was threefold: 

  1. Evaluate patient satisfaction
  2. Help determine Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements
  3. Bring the patient’s voice into the care environment

Although they accomplished the first two goals, the third is still up for debate. Yes, the patient’s voice was being added to the discussion at each healthcare practice, but how the surveys are conducted and released limit their utility and actionability.   

The HCAHPS survey was a great first step. 

But the industry is moving beyond reliance on government-mandated surveys. The Beryl Institute’s 2021 study of the state of patient experience found that more than two-thirds of hospitals (70%) are placing greater emphasis on their own patient feedback tools, while only 46% are relying on HCAHPS data to drive patient experience efforts. The reality is that, with technological advances, now there are more innovative ways for hospitals to mine actionable patient feedback and leverage it to improve the patient experience and health outcomes. 

What we’re referencing are real-time point-of-care surveys.  

Why Are Real-Time Point-of-Care Surveys the Answer? 

While the underlying objective of HCAHPS was well-intentioned, there is a fundamental problem that has constrained their usefulness for healthcare providers—namely, lag time. 

While HCAHPS data may provide hospitals with interesting, retrospective insights, it may be outdated. By the time hospitals receive HCAHPS data, the patient has long ago checked out of the hospital. 

That reporting gap represents lost time and opportunities for hospitals to address patient dissatisfaction and implement better quality care. 

In response to such intrinsic flaws, forward-thinking hospitals are turning to interactive, integrated hospital smart room technology to help them conduct real-time patient experience surveys, also known as point-of-care surveys. In doing so, they can improve the patient experience by addressing care issues as they arise. According to Patient Engagement HIT:

“Point-of-care surveys give providers patient experience feedback in real-time, allowing them to make adjustments to better care for the individual. Additionally, point-of-care survey tools have fewer questions than traditional patient satisfaction surveys.”

By conducting surveys in real time, healthcare providers can better understand what is happening at all stages of the care journey instead of finding out too late, months later. 

Interactive Patient Surveys In Action 

The viability of real-time surveys isn’t just theoretical. Hospitals are increasingly turning to digital tools to acquire patient engagement and feedback. These interactive surveys bridge the gap between patients and their nurses, allowing for increased efficiencies. Nurses can use the surveys to collect important data in real-time to better understand their patients and their experience in order to improve overall satisfaction.

And an interactive patient experience platform on the patient room TV or another connected device is an ideal mechanism for such efforts.  Using it, the hospital can create short surveys that are automatically delivered to the patient room TV at prescribed intervals. 

Real-time, point-of-care patient surveys can be customized to give the hospital insight into specific aspects of the patient’s hospital experience, from general nursing care to food service. 

Many use them to get daily feedback, through a Daily Check-in Survey of just one or two questions. The survey is automated upon patient admission, so that each day of the patient’s stay, the survey appears when the patient room TV is turned on.

Real-time Feedback on Nursing Care

When El Camino Hospital—a nonprofit acute care, 443-bed facility—introduced Sentrics E3 Interactive Patient Surveys to improve patient experience in real-time, the hospital noticed an immediate uptick in patient feedback. 

El Camino Hospital sought ways to get more patient feedback, but existing manual processes generated little response, and required nurses to continually ask patients for feedback and remind them to submit it.

The hospital realized that its interactive patient experience platform could provide a user-friendly digital solution. Using a short interactive survey on the patient room TV, El Camino Hospital immediately began receiving an average of 3-5 responses daily. It also experienced an instant uptick in the HCAHPS scores. According to El Camino’s Director of Experience, R.J. Salus:

“The best part about the Sentrics patient survey is the fact that it generates the feedback with no extra workload or intervention required by the nursing or marketing teams. The nurses don’t have to explain it to the patient or do anything extra that impacts their work.”

Using Surveys to Improve Food Service

Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, a physician-led nonprofit teaching hospital located at Tufts University, sought to improve patient satisfaction around the hospital’s food service. The Lahey team turned to the Sentrics E3 Interactive Patient Survey tool to place an interactive 3-question survey on the patient room TV, asking for immediate feedback on three food service categories: 

  • Food quality
  • Food temperature
  • Server courtesy 

If a patient gives a “poor” or “fair” response to any of the three questions, an email generated through E3 is immediately sent to the food service staff, and a supervisor is then dispatched to the patient to better understand the issue. 

According to Patient Services Manager-Food and Nutrition Services Brandon Doubrava, patients instantly noticed the difference: “The patient is often pleasantly surprised, shocked actually—to see us visit the room, and realize that we do take their feedback seriously.”

In the first reporting period after implementing the E3 real-time surveys, the percentage of patients giving the hospital the highest possible satisfaction rating increased from 73% to 79%, far exceeding national and state averages.  

6 Keys to Effective Real-Time Patient Surveys

So, how do you get the most out of real-time patient surveys? Here are some proven best practices.

  1. Keep the survey short – Limit surveys to 2-3 questions maximum. Remember, your audience may not be feeling well—they may be in pain, on medication, or tired. By keeping it short, you encourage patients to give feedback without making it feel like a chore.   
  2. Automate the survey delivery – The cadence of your surveys will be dictated by your survey goals. Are you wanting to check in with patients daily? Are you looking for feedback on a specific service area, like food service or housekeeping? Your goals will drive how often to schedule the surveys. But regardless, you’ll want to automatically send out surveys with no manual intervention needed. For example, if you want to check in daily with patients, set automatic daily Check-In Survey notifications that appear whenever the patient turns the TV on. If your focus is feedback on a service line like food service, you might set automatic surveys to be delivered after each meal delivery time.
  3. Make it easy for patients to use – There may be language barriers or other factors that make it harder for some patients to participate. So, simple navigation is optimal for a patient feedback survey. That means no scrolling or medical jargon and offering surveys in the patient’s preferred language.
  4. Involve key stakeholders – Involve key stakeholders – nurses, service line managers, marketing – in identifying survey focus areas and survey questions and frequency. Communicate what you are trying to do and why, and seek buy in. 
  5. Know how to respond (and then do it!) – Patient feedback is of little value if it isn’t acted upon. Work with key stakeholders to develop workflows for how you will respond to positive, and negative, feedback. Consider defining red/yellow/green feedback, and creating a response protocol for each. You might escalate red issues to a supervisor level, who makes an immediate personal visit to the patient. Alternatively, establish a process to acknowledge and thank patients for green/positive survey kudos, as this lets them know that their voices have been heard.  
  6. Use E3 data to identify trends – Track real-time patient survey data regularly, and share with key stakeholders. Use it to identify trends that can be proactively addressed. These efforts can optimize your operational improvement initiatives. 

Embolden Your Patients’ Voices with Real-Time Feedback

Patient feedback through real-time surveys enables hospitals to identify and resolve concerns before they become larger issues, thus improving patient satisfaction.

That’s where the Sentrics E3 Patient Experience Platform can help. With daily check-in surveys and other customized real-time surveys delivered via an interactive smart TV platform, hospitals can receive instant and continuous visibility into patient satisfaction. 

Want to gain better, more actionable insights into your patients’ perception of your hospital?

Schedule a demo to see how your hospital can use interactive patient feedback surveys to enhance the patient experience.

Sources:

  1. Beryl Institute. The State of Patient Experience 2021. https://www.theberylinstitute.org/page/PXBENCHMARKING 
  2. Patient Engagement HIT. Top 5 Practice Management Tools for a Good Patient Experience. https://patientengagementhit.com/news/top-5-practice-management-tools-for-a-good-patient-experience

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