Improve the Experience, Improve the Score

Published in Dome - October 2015

One source that consumers use to evaluate a hospital is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, which is designed to capture the inpatient experience nationwide. The survey, which is mailed to randomly selected patients, asks about the care they received during a recent hospital stay and invites them to respond to questions such as: “Before giving you any new medicine, how often did the hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?” Respondents can choose “never,” “sometimes,” “usually” or “always.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services manages the survey and issues quarterly reports on the Hospital Compare website at The data are culled from patient responses to 27 questions that focus on:

  • Nurse communication
  • Doctor communication
  • Responsiveness of hospital staff
  • Pain management
  • Communication about medicines
  • Discharge information
  • Care transition
  • Cleanliness of hospital environment
  • Quietness of hospital environment
  • Overall rating of hospital
  • Willingness to recommend hospital

Each response generates a rating of one to five stars, with one being the lowest rating and five being the highest. Hospitals with high ratings have greater percentages of patients who chose the most positive response option.

Here are some suggestions to help consistently deliver an “always” experience.

  • Take the Language of Caring training. Practice caring communication skills.
  • Review your unit’s and department’s HCAHPS scores. Set improvement goals and hold yourself accountable.
  • Practice teamwork. Speak positively of your team members and make sure that all care providers have the same treatment information.
  • Give a sincere and meaningful goodbye to patients who are leaving the hospital. Ask how their experience was and how it could be improved.

Conversations About Safety

New website for patients deciphers Johns Hopkins’ patient safety and quality performance efforts.

Image of a physician working on a laptop computer that displays the Patient Safety and Quality website.