Four Ways to Leverage the HCAHP and Optimize Customer Experience

Dustin Staiger

If you’ve worked in healthcare for any length of time, you’ve probably asked yourself how you can improve your patient satisfaction scores. HCAHPS scores are one of the most important benchmarks for patient satisfaction in the healthcare industry, and they can also have a significant financial impact on your medical clinic. HCAHPS stands for “Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems”, and it is a survey that measures a patient’s experience at a medical facility, with 30 percent of Medicare reimbursements tied to achieving satisfactory scores.

Since there is so much riding on getting a good score, the HCAHPS can often seem intimidating. But they can also be a valuable resource to help you improve your patient satisfaction scores. By using some of the questions of the HCAHPS survey as guideposts, we’ve put together a list of four ways you can upgrade different design aspects of your medical office to improve both your HCAHPS scores and your overall patient experience.


the hcahps asks:

During this hospital stay, after you pressed the call button, how often did you get help as soon as you wanted it? And how often did you get help in getting to the bathroom or in using a bedpan as soon as you wanted?

  • According to Micah Solomon, one of best ways to improve patient experience is to place yourself in your patient’s shoes. Solomon is a customer service consultant who has written several articles on improving patient experience for Forbes. He emphasizes that fast, compassionate assistance is key to creating an environment of patient-centered care.
  • When your patient presses a call button, the few minutes it may take for a nurse to come to their assistance may not seem like a long time from your staff’s perspective, but for a patient who has a full bladder (and possibly a compromised ability to hold it all in) a ‘few minutes’ can seem like an uncomfortable eternity of crossed legs.
  • That’s why creating an environment of patient-centered care should include literally placing your staff in the center of the patient’s care environment. Nursing stations and staff work areas should be located near exam rooms and patient rooms. By placing your staff nearby, they can easily see and hear if they’re needed by either patients or co-workers. The amount of walking and time it takes to respond to calls will also be reduced, which is a win-win for both patients and staff.


the hcahps asks:

During this hospital stay, how often was the area around your room quiet at night?

  • A noisy medical environment is a huge problem when it comes to quality patient care. Noise disrupts patient sleep and increases stress, heartrate, and blood pressure. Unfortunately, hospitals and medical clinics tend to pretty noisy environments and there’s no easy way to solve that problem. Medical machinery whirrs, whooshes beeps at all hours of the day, and staff are constantly walking past rooms on their way to do rounds or complete tasks.
  • A restful, soothing environment is crucial for patient well-being and recovery. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of different design elements that can help to reduce the ambient noise level. Switching to single patient rooms and using sound-dampening material for walls, flooring and ceilings when designing rooms can make a difference for your patients.
  • Rubber flooring, for example, can help to reduce sound in patient rooms and exam rooms and is easy to clean. Carpeting is an even better sound-dampening option for hallways and waiting rooms where cleaning is less of an issue. And while nursing stations should be located close to your patient and exam rooms, staff break areas should be placed further away so that all your wild staff parties won’t disturb the patients.


the hcahps asks:

During this hospital stay, how often did doctors explain things in a way you could understand?

  • Keeping your patients and their families in the loop when it comes to their health care is essential. Today people are accustomed to having information at their fingertips via their smartphones and tablets, so your practice shouldn’t be afraid to use technology to better explain treatment plans. Computer monitors and smart TVs installed in exam rooms and patient rooms can allow Doctors to show their notes and explain things step by step.
  • Whiteboards, while a little lower-tech are also a great tool to allow doctors to write notes about and to explain treatment plans to their patients. They can even be used by the patients and families to write their own notes or questions for care staff.


the hcahps asks:

Would you recommend this hospital to your friends and family?

  • While the other questions in the HCAHPS address specific and important issues in how your medical clinic serves patients, this question is more subjective. It can encompass a lot of factors that are hard to quantify for patients. Was the clinic a place they felt comfortable, well taken care of, and respected? Is it somewhere they would trust to take care of the people they love most?
  • Interior design for doctor’s offices has been becoming more like that of spas over the years — for a good reason. Going to the Doctor is a stressful experience. Designing an environment that sets the mind at ease is an important part of a holistic approach to patient care. A soothing environment can show your patients their emotional needs will be respected and taken care of alongside their physical needs. That’s why when you’re looking to design or update your medical office, you should be designing with not only function in mind, but also style and comfort.
  • One of the most important places to start when it comes to redesigning with comfort in mind is the waiting room. People remember their first and last impressions of something the best, and your waiting room is the first impression. Your waiting rooms should have soothing décor and plush, comfortable furniture. Seats should also be arranged in small groups to allow patients and their families to sit together and talk.
  • Being able to have their families involved in their care, or simply there as moral support is important to your patients, so accommodating family in every room is also important. Try to including sofas and storage cubbies for visitors in patient rooms, and extra seating in exam and patient consultation rooms to allow their loved ones to be included in discussions.

key takeaways:

  • You can use HCAHP questions as a resource to help improve patient satisfaction.
  • Locate your nursing stations and staff work areas near patient rooms and exam rooms to allow your staff to provide faster more attentive care.
  • Use design elements like sound-dampening material to help reduce ambient noise that can disturb patient rest.
  • Leverage technology and design elements like whiteboards in patient rooms and exam rooms to better facilitate communication between staff and patients or their families.
  • Keep it comfy. Design an environment that is comfortable and puts your patients and their families at ease for a better patient experience.