So you get home from the hospital. You were there for an MRI, or a short stay, an operation, the reason doesn’t matter, but you were there and now you’re home. A week later you receive a phone call from a very polite operator asking if you’ll take a quick survey about your “experience.” You’re courteous, have a few minutes to spare, and say, Yes, I’ll take the survey. Not knowing that you’re rating, nationally, the hospital.

The unwieldy name for this survey is “Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems,” thankfully “HCAHPS” (pronounced “H-Caps”) for short. This is the measure of all hospitals in the country. You may think this is just another customer satisfaction survey, one that will go to someone somewhere in management and get lost in an inboxes shortly thereafter.

But this survey is, according to Keith Heuser, Market President at CHI Mercy Health in Valley City, a standardized survey for data collection for measuring patients’ perspectives on hospital care. The survey, says the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in Baltimore, MD, “is designed to produce comparable data on the patient’s perspective on care that allows objective and meaningful comparisons between hospitals on domains that are important to consumers.”

The HCAHPS survey contains 21 patient perspectives on care and patient rating items ranging from communication with doctors and nurses; responsiveness of hospital staff; pain management; communication about medicines; discharge information; cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment; and the transition of care. The survey is used for accountability and transparency when appraising the quality of hospital care, and is used by Medicare for reimbursement to hospitals.

Unlike typical customer satisfaction surveys where there is a grade of measurements (“Please rate from 1 to 10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest…”) with the HCAHPS survey of hospitals, Medicare uses the “always” response for their comparisons, so any other response is not taken into account for the statistical comparisons.

Negative scores are reported back to the hospital individually for management to act on but are not considered in the comparisons. And narrative responses are always shared with the facility but are, again, not counted in comparing hospitals to each other.

“This is where we really see ourselves improving the the patient experience here at Mercy,” said Heuser. “It is our job, our profession, to make certain that each and every patient we see has every reason to rate us in the top box. And residents of this com-munity need to know that we are offering, truly, transparently, and objectively, the very best care they can receive anywhere.”

CHI Mercy Health, said Heuser, asks that patients please take the few minutes to answer the survey questions. Watch over the next year, he said, as results become implemented.

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