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A Ranking That Matters

On a recent visit to Florida, I was bowled over by the number of billboards promoting different hospitals and the recognitions they’ve received. Magnet. Solucient Top 100. U.S. News & Report. Every hospital in the greater Tampa area must be on some kind of list, and those hospitals make sure potential customers know about it.

Funny thing is, as I found while reporting this month’s management feature, rankings don’t stand out to the majority of consumers. That’s not to say there are no benefits to being on a list, but I’ve never had a friend or colleague tell me that her hospital is No. 10 on this list or that list.

That may change in March 2008 when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services releases the results of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems on its Hospital Compare Web site. How well you satisfy your patients will be public knowledge if you want to receive full Medicare reimbursement—and consumers, experts say, are likely to take notice.

Massachusetts experimented with a similar idea eight years ago when it unveiled hospital patient satisfaction scores to the public and media. The effort made headlines and resulted in a statewide push to improve patient treatment. If Massachusetts is any indication, HCAHPS will change the way consumers look at hospitals, making the hospital experience even more critical.

Although you may not be able to control where you fall in a best hospitals list, you may be able to influence HCAHPS ratings, according to a recent report by Press Ganey Associates. The report, Hospital Pulse Report: Perspectives on American Health Care, lists the top five priority areas that will likely affect HCAHPS scores:
  • Attentiveness to personal needs
  • Responsiveness to concerns/complaints
  • Level of courtesy/respect with which the nurses treat patients
  • Care with which doctors listen to patients
  • Extent of efforts by staff members to help with pain
Most companies outside of healthcare strive to be remembered. But in healthcare, it’s often the fact that patients don’t have a memorable experience that makes a lasting impression. Everybody has a healthcare horror story. It may not end in death or disfigurement, but there’s usually pain and frustration—about a rude receptionist, a long wait or an unreturned phone call, for example. The thought of the general public seeing patient satisfaction scores might scare plenty of hospital executives, but Press Ganey’s report shows that it’s not too late to fix some things that will help your organization achieve both improved patient satisfaction and higher HCAHPS ratings. Now that would be worthy of a new billboard.

—Molly Rowe




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