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Real-Time Patient Experience Surveys Key for Practice Improvement

Point-of-care patient experience surveys could help providers make improvements in real time, according to a Chilmark report.

patient experience survey

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Point-of-care patient experience surveying tools might be the answer to many patient experience officers’ needs, although the technology currently has limited adoption, according to a new Chilmark Insight Report.

Healthcare organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of measuring patient experience and improving on those metrics. With more riding on higher satisfaction scores, it is incumbent on organizations to understand and meet patient needs.

Currently, CMS measures patient satisfaction levels using CAHPS surveys. Private payers may also measure patient satisfaction for their own value-based contracts, while some organizations have designed their own measures for assessing the patient experience.

In an interview with 11 chief experience officers (CXOs), Chilmark found that improving HCAHPS scores was of the highest priority. Additionally, CXOs aimed to provide consistent experiences across different health system facilities, build patient awareness of experience improvements, improve patient health literacy, and address operational challenges by aligning with industry best practices.

All of the interviewed organizations used some sort of traditional patient satisfaction surveying method. Traditional tools usually entail sending out a 30-question survey to a random sample of patients approximately one month following discharge. However, these traditional methods are falling short of CXO needs, the report asserted.

READ MORE: Is Patient Experience Data Sufficient for Quality Improvement?

“Traditional patient experience survey solutions suffer from three clear shortcomings: They are too long, they capture retrospective data, and they use outdated phone- and paper-based methodologies to gather data,” the Chilmark report said. Today’s Chief Patient Experience Officers (CXOs) increasingly need near-real-time information about patient sentiment in order to improve the care experience while someone is still in the hospital or within days (and not weeks) of discharge.”

Real-time patient experience surveying tools are poised to fulfill those needs, although only four of the 11 interviewed CXOs are currently using these tools. Real-time patient experience tools help measure patient sentiment while the patient is currently in the facility, allowing CXOs and other key stakeholders to address those shortcomings immediately.

“The use case for point-of-care survey solutions, then, is to capture data on key metrics at various points of care by surveying more patients in a more effective way,” the report explained. The goal is to better understand what happens to patients during their care journey, as it is happening, rather than receive a retrospective summary from a random sampling, weeks after the fact.”

Most point-of-care survey tools have fewer questions than traditional patient satisfaction surveys. Point-of-care tools use a combination of yes or no questions and open-ended questions. Organization leaders issue these surveys most commonly at patient bedside, although some respondents suggested there is value in surveying patients in lab test rooms, pre-op areas, and during follow-up care.

Additionally, some CXOs expressed interest in a tool that would aggregate all sources of patient feedback. Patient feedback can come in more forms than just patient experience surveys – patients often complain to administrative staff or post their gripes on social media. A tool that can aggregate all of that feedback could optimize patient experience initiatives.

READ MORE: Positive Patient Experience Key for Good Online Physician Reviews

Although point-of-care experience surveys are not yet widespread, the Chilmark authors predicted more providers will begin using them as they continue to seek improved patient experience scores.

When looking for a point-of-care surveying solution, Chilmark recommended CXOs focus on three areas: functionality, platform, and usability issues.

Functionality pertains to the ability for CXOs to view and analyze trends. Data should be presented in such a way that a provider could determine hospital-wide improvement plans.

Platform includes the ability for the tool to connect to the EHR and to aggregate multiple forms of patient data.

Usability relates to user-facing functions such as creating custom surveys for individual organizations or facilities.

READ MORE: How Hospitals Can Raise Patient Satisfaction, CAHPS Scores

Currently, providers that use real-time patient experience tools use niche survey vendors rather than enterprise solutions because they offer these targeted, point-of-care insights. Some organizations have created homegrown solutions.

Reported benefits of point of care surveys include more pertinent questions, immediate responses, more patient responses, specificity of insights, useable across the care site, and cost efficiency.

However, these tools offer limited benchmark data. It’s difficult to show time-over-time insights and improvements for patient experience because the data is so granular.

More traditional, monthly patient satisfaction surveys and report cards are more helpful for those goals, the Chilmark report noted. This highlights the need for organizations to look at both types of patient experience data.

“Neither HCAHPS nor enterprise survey solutions are going away,” the report concluded. “There are more than enough challenges for vendors trying to compete with the market’s largest vendor. Point-of-care survey vendors must understand that these established solutions won’t be replaced and, instead, should emphasize to prospects the added value of insight into business-line performance, real-time analytics, and continuous improvement.”

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