The Most Effective Way to Raise HCAHPS Scores

Jun 09, 2017


Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores are inherently tied to a hospital's revenue. Not only are they a source of ratings that consumers can use to choose where they go for treatment the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) releases hospital star ratings based on their reports. CMS also uses them to gauge the amount of reimbursements they release to hospitals each year.

In order to increase the amount of Medicare reimbursements and defend revenue lines, hospitals are taking steps to increase their HCAHPS scores, which have remained largely consistent over the years. This has proven to be no simple task since HCAHPS scores are largely based on subjective opinion ratings rather than objective performance. Nevertheless, research has identified the most effective way hospitals can increase patient satisfaction and earn better HCAHPS ratings:

Consistent and Clear Communication

Communication is the foundation of quality customer service. It is the number one way to prevent issues from arising, and the most effective way of confronting issues as they occur. This precedent is true in the hospital setting, where patient understanding is integral to the perception they have of their care.

There is no single metric more heavily measured than patient communication. Six of the first seven questions on HCAHPS surveys instruct patients to rate the level of communication they had with doctors and nursing staff. In total, 12 of the 27 questions gauge how well hospital staff relayed information (about medicines, discharge instructions, etc.) and responded to patients.

Using Tools to Keep Patients Informed

There are three major factors of effective communication: 

  1. Presentation - the way information is delivered (audibly or visually)

  2. Understanding - how well information is absorbed by the person being communicated to.

  3. Retention - how likely the information is to stay with the person.

If one of these factors is missing the communication process begins to break down, and information is ultimately lost. Using communication tools like hospital dry erase boards is a common method hospitals use to ensure all three of these factors are met. 

There have been many studies into whether auditory or visual keys are better for learning, but research has shown that it is largely dependent on the individual. Using whiteboards gives care teams the opportunity to communicate critical information through both visual and auditory methods, increasing both understanding and retention no matter which learning method is more effective for any individual patient. Studies have shown the remarkable effect whiteboards have on information retention and patient satisfaction, particularly in medicine wards, where scores increased significantly:

  • Nurse communication (+6.4 points)

  • Physician communication (+4.0 points)

  • Involvement in decision making (+6.3 points)

What Should Be Communicated Using Whiteboards

There is more to effective communication than simply writing what is said on a whiteboard. Everything from visual cues to the layout and design of a whiteboard affects how well information is presented, understood and retained. It's a process that goes deeper than choosing whiteboard colors.

At Vividboard, we have identified key sources of information that patients find useful (you can find this and more in our IdeaBook). We will work with you to design whiteboards that are tailored to your patients, helping you better care for them and providing a hospital experience that encourages them to give you higher HCAHPS scores. Contact our team to discover how we design effective hospital whiteboards.