Improve Patient Experience and HCAHPS Scores Using Patient Education

Molly Beinfeld, MPH, Healthwise Solutions Evaluation Consultant

As a researcher at Healthwise, I regularly talk to our clients about what matters most to them when it comes to patient education. Among the many goals they want help with achieving, improved patient satisfaction routinely rises to the top of the list. Research suggests that satisfied patients have better outcomes and are more likely to stay loyal to their provider and health system.

patient education improves HCAHPS scores

Patient satisfaction is easy to measure. In fact, chances are good that the data are already available. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires that all hospitals administer the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), a patient experience survey. This allows for meaningful comparisons in patient satisfaction between hospitals.

Power of the patient perspective

Patient satisfaction ratings and HCAHPS scores rely on the patient’s perspective. Provider-patient communication is a common element in the HCAHPS survey’s 11 categories, and patient engagement and education highly influence several components of the overall patient experience.

Several HCAHPS survey questions address communication. Patients are asked questions like:

  • How often did nurses and physicians listen carefully to you?
  • How often did nurses and physicians explain things in a way you could understand?
  • Did you receive information about symptoms or health problems to watch for after leaving the hospital?

In a recent analysis, we found that clients who used Healthwise patient instructions for inpatient stays had significantly higher HCAHPs scores on average compared to other hospitals in the same state. The difference was statistically significant in two domains: overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend. We hypothesize that hospitals can improve their HCAHPS scores by increasing patient engagement, supported by consistent, evidence-based plain language patient education.

This hypothesis is grounded in published research. Kaiser Permanente’s Four Habits program to enhance physician communication and relationship skills of clinicians, for example, calls out patient education for tests, treatments, and collaborative decision making. This program, rolled out broadly at KP and other organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, has demonstrated improvements in patient satisfaction.

Better patient engagement and satisfaction scores

For many of our clients, being able to quantify the positive impact of patient education within their organizations is a top priority. HCAHPS scores represent a practical yet meaningful measure to begin this kind of research. At Healthwise, our research team is committed to collaborating with clients to understand the value of patient education. We can develop a research plan customized to your organization’s goals using our expertise in evaluation planning, data analysis, and survey design.

Easy-to-understand and credible patient education is key to improving the patient experience. Read our infographic, Boost Patient Satisfaction and HCAHPS Scores with Patient Education, for more information on using patient education to facilitate patient satisfaction.


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