This blog post was written by our guest blogger, Michele Treinin, Healthcare Analyst at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a nationwide HCAHPS® vendor located in Syracuse, NY.

As a healthcare analyst, my monthly routine involves working with various hospital clients to create patient satisfaction reports based on the HCAHPS® surveys that RMS sends out. Here at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a nationwide HCAHPS® vendor, we have produced a great response rate (52 percent), which tramples over the National Average of HCAHPS® response rate average of 33 percent. We know how important these scores are to our clients, especially now that payments reflect how well each hospital performs on the surveys. Beginning Jan. 1, payments from the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have been impacted by how well the hospital performs in two distinct measures: (1) Clinical Guidelines and(2) Patient Satisfaction Scores. Clinical guidelines are based on 12 measures that make up 70 percent of the payment. These guidelines include discharge instructions to specific patients and distributing antibiotics to qualifying patients, among others. The patient satisfaction scores, which make up the remaining 30 percent of the payment, are based on experiences with doctors, nurses, staff, facility, overall rating of the hospital on a 0 to 10 score (10 being best), and willingness to recommend to family and friends. Now that payments are tied to the scores, hospitals are beginning to feel the impact of the surveys, especially in Central New York (CNY) where RMS is located.

tips for raising hcahps scores

Many of the hospitals in the our area have been affected by the new payments from CMS. Nearly all but one of the hospitals in CNY  received reimbursement cuts due to the new pay structure. For hospitals that already have financial problems, the additional money lost is making it more difficult to operate on a day-to-day basis. The new pay structure is just one of the new programs that Medicare will roll out throughout the year as there is a continuous move to improve quality and reduce costs all while creating patient-centered care. Overall, Medicare is increasing payments to 1,557 high-scoring hospitals and decreasing payments to 1,427 low scoring hospitals.

Increasing payments to your facility will now be partially based on the scores you receive from your patients. These scores are based on the interaction patients have with your staff including doctors, nurses, technicians and housekeeping. By engaging staff members, you can increase your patient satisfaction scores and your reimbursement. Here are five tips to raise your HCAHPS® scores:

1) Establish Early Expectations – Create a strong value-based culture that sets expectations from the very start with employment and then hold everyone responsible for their actions. It is easier to create a culture from the start than it is to build with an existing group of people.

2) Contract Around the Culture – Incorporate the cultures and values in the job description and gauge how well potential employees will fit within the organization.

3) Establish Teamwork and Transparency – The best way to inform employees about patient satisfaction is to make it matter to them. Use transparent benchmarks and standards for each unit or department and make it a priority for all staff.

4) Reward for Small Victory – Recognize staff members for doing a good job even in regards to little things such as a positive interaction with a patient or apologizing for being late. Encouraging patient-centered care becomes the job of everyone and builds positive relationships in the workplace.

5) Build Employee Stamina – Nurses and doctors should take brief pauses during the day to decrease their stress level, which lessens the stress when entering a patient’s room. The pauses lead to a lower heart rate and moments of silence, which lessen the stress in the environment.

Are you interested in finding out more about Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) and how our CMS approved vendor healthcare division can help increase your HCAHPS® reimbursement? For more information, contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker, at or by calling him at (315) 635-9802. For other RMS blog posts about the CAHPS® process and HCAHPS® process – click here.

Portions of this blog post were based on: