It's all about the patient?

By Chowning Johnson on December 2nd, 2011

ICD-10, Meaningful Use, ACOs…what other buzz words can we throw in that are top of mind for each and every healthcare executive? Certainly, plenty others make the list right now, and while the benefits to these major initiatives vary, one commonality is spurring them all—patient care. It makes sense, right? We should always push to better patient care, coordinate information across providers/facilities and enhance outcomes, but it’s certainly a tall order. However, there’s more to it than the care a patient receives.

The overall patient experience is quickly rising to the top of the list when it comes to challenges healthcare execs see as pressing. In fact, a recent HealthLeaders study shows that 37 percent of hospital executives view this as their top priority or within the top five according to 55 percent. Patient experience impacts everything, from before patients arrive to after they leave. If a patient visits your facility and receives great care, but doesn’t have a good experience your efforts are lost. It becomes a competitive advantage against other hospitals and health systems in your community; it builds a loyal customer base and increases retention; it can even attract new patients.

Beyond this, the patient experience will soon also impact the bottom line for better or worse come October 2012. CMS will roll out the Hospital Inpatient Value-based Purchasing program, which replaces the previous pay-for-performance program and offers a financial incentive to hospitals that meet or improve upon 13 key measures. The incentive will base 70 percent of the payment amount on clinical measures and 30 percent on the patient experience, or HCAHPS scores (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems). While it may sound like a nice-to-have, hospitals who don’t participate will lose 1 percent of their Medicare payments.

There are plenty of articles detailing how hospitals should approach this mandate and the patient experience, from practical how to’s to examples of strategies and technologies hospitals have employed, but there’s not one simple approach that will result in a win for all. Only with time will we see the true best practices for a meaningful patient experience. What are you seeing hospitals and vendors doing to address this?