More and more hospital executives are looking at the HCAHPS scores imposed on them by the federal government to measure patient experiences at their clinical sites. Soon they will be trending this data to spotlight how effective they continue to be when measuring transactional performance of nursing and physician staff, such as how quickly they responded to calls, how professional they behaved and how thorough they were in explaining a new treatment plan.
As a customer anthropologist, it is my job to take a more effective measure of the experience of the patient when going through the fairly traumatic event of hospitalization. I find it remarkable that hospital executives aren't complementing the HCAHPS tool with a more thorough investigation to discover the elements that comprise a hospital stay. Most hospitals would benefit by exploring the many ways people prepare for, are taken to, are admitted in, put up with, and eventually, exit from the hospital experience.
These people would probably not, for the most part, choose to go to any hospital. We really should be asking "What makes for the whole personal story of someone's hospital experience?" And "How can our hospitals leverage what they learn?"
This will more appropriately take us down a path to discover how to:
- Improve the experience overall
- Ensure comfort and ease of healing
- Remove ineffective wastes, while keeping and bringing new personal touches that mean something to patients and their families
- Find new ways to serve patients, and
- Extend our understanding of the patient experience to include both the before and after portions of care following the hospital visit
In addition to asking a much more comprehensive battery of questions to people already tired from their experience, hospital executives are probably also wary of discovering the truth behind these experiences and the lack of accountability in people they employ to bring about better outcomes in these otherwise relatively unattended areas of experience. For example, most hospital execs are surprised that patients include the hospital as at least partially responsible when billing and insurance claim efforts are seemingly sabotaged by the people we pay to help patients when they need it most. More startling is the lack of understanding at the top levels of decision-making, that hospital people can effectuate simple yet powerful help to give relief to patients overcome by these challenges.
HCAHPS was designed to give the government the ability to rate performance on metrics that would be universal no matter where a person recieved hospital care. It is now time for hospital executives to look more closely at their unique components of care and the administrative aspects of their role in patient experiences, and fess up to better opportunities to bring improved health and higher satisfaction to their patients.