Improve HCAHPS Scores Through Nursing Training

A note from Kognito: We can’t emphasize enough how grateful we are to nurses and healthcare professionals working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can support you with simulation technology or other services during this time.
Healthcare providers have always strived to take great care of their patients. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is how patient satisfaction is measured, and how that data is used.

With the growth of the value-based Medicare reimbursement model, payment is partially based on performance. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey (HCAHPS) is the standardized assessment tool used to determine the value of the patient experience.

As healthcare leaders navigate the shift away from the traditional fee-for-service framework, they are under increasing pressure to improve quality of care, elevate the importance of patient satisfaction, and increase HCAHPS scores. A big piece of this effort involves investing in the people who interact with patients every day.

Who Has The Biggest Influence on Patient Satisfaction?

Many healthcare providers and clinicians impact patient satisfaction, but perhaps the most critical role is that of the nurse. As the largest portion of the healthcare workforce, nurses spend far more time with patients than other clinicians, and patients and loved ones often look to nurses first with questions and concerns.

Because nurses spend more time with patients than physicians, it’s not surprising that patients’ trust in physicians is diminishing, while nurses are one of the most trusted professionals in America.

If you’re trying to improve patient satisfaction, start by investing in performance-based training for your nurses. These team members have the largest influence on the patient experience, and developing skills such as effective communication strategies can lead to improved outcomes and higher HCAHPS scores.

Measuring Patient Satisfaction with HCAHPS Scores

The gold standard when it comes to patient experience surveys is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey (HCAHPS).

The HCAHPS survey was developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the same federal agency responsible for developing the value-based care model.

A random sample of patients receive the HCAHPS survey, and the data collected is meant to measure the patient experience to provide meaningful feedback to hospitals and healthcare providers. These scores can contribute to either the loss or gain of Medicare reimbursement—and the percentage of payment that is affected is expected to continue to increase in the future.

Many questions on the HCAHPS survey specifically relate to the role of the nurse, which is why targeting training efforts on these team members can be so effective in raising scores. There are 22 questions related to quality of care (the remaining are patient information such as demographics), and six are directly impacted by nurses:

  • During this hospital stay, how often did nurses treat you with courtesy and respect?
  • During this hospital stay, how often did nurses listen carefully to you?
  • During this hospital stay, how often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand?
  • Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?
  • Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?
  • When I left the hospital, I had a good understanding of the things I was responsible for in managing my health (Strongly disagree/Disagree/Agree/Strongly agree)

These six questions account for nearly 30% of the survey, and you can see how improving patient interactions with nurses can positively affect HCAHPS scores.

This is not to say that nurses should give patients whatever they want to please them. To help ensure HCAHPS survey scores are high, and patients are satisfied, healthcare providers may honor patient requests that are not in their best interest, which can, in turn, lead to worse health outcomes. This is not the answer.

Instead, healthcare professionals should continue to provide their best quality of care, even when it means disagreeing with the patient, and work to improve their delivery and communication skills.

Increasing Patient Satisfaction by Improving Nurse-Patient Communication

Ideally, every clinician who engages with the patient would be properly trained to improve communication skills. Doctor-patient communication is very important, but the fact is that nurses spend more time with patients. Prioritizing training opportunities for nurses first is a logical step toward improving HCAHPS survey scores and can help:

  • Improve nurses’ communication skills
  • Help patients feel more understood and cared for
  • Support the quadruple aim, an improvement model widely used as healthcare shifts to value-based care
  • Improve nurse retention and job satisfaction

Techniques such as motivational interviewing can lead to more productive and positive patient conversations, especially regarding challenging topics like behavior change. It takes practice to master these techniques, but they can be transformative for your practice, your patients, and your nursing team.

Providing professional development opportunities to nurses not only helps improve patient satisfaction, it also helps increase nurse retention and job satisfaction. Providing professional development programs to your nurses helps them feel valued and positively challenged. At a time when a nursing shortage is sweeping the nation, this is a huge additional reason to invest in training.

Role-Play Simulations Build Capacity of Nurses

Kognito’s role-play simulations empower healthcare teams to learn and practice conversation skills on virtual patients, who act and respond as a real patient would. A virtual coach then provides individualized feedback to users based on their responses to patients.

These trainings are efficient and effective. For example, SBI with Adolescents takes just 60 minutes. This interactive experience was developed in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, and helps healthcare professionals learn how to:

  • Screen patients using evidence-based tools
  • Conduct brief interventions using motivational interviewing techniques
  • Make collaborative action plans with patients
  • Coordinate referrals to treatment or follow-up care

If you’re trying to improve HCAHPS scores and want to improve nurse-patient communication, we invite you to take a demo of SBI with Adolescents. Experience the power of virtual patients and discover how this simulation can help your team reach its goals!

Scroll to Top