The Obama administration might have delayed the Affordable Care Act Employer Mandate until 2015, but many hospitals around the country are already feeling the effects of health reforms. One of them is a pay-for-performance system that doles out Medicaid dollars, in part, based on patient surveys.
The new survey system is called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). For brevity, people are pronouncing the acronym “H-Caps.” Hospitals must now randomly select and survey at least 100 discharged patients each year and submit the H-Caps results to the government.
The survey asks questions that range from cleanliness of patient rooms to attentiveness of doctors and nurses. The survey asks about the environment in general and on specific factors, such as how quickly bedpans are being removed. Clearly, hospitals need to be sure they are on their toes or a few patient ratings could now add up to big money. Hospitals that receive low scores will receive less money from Medicare, and those that earn higher marks will receive a bonus.
That incentive has prompted many hospitals to start upgrading their facilities and standards of care to boost their survey scores. These additions range from adding TV channels to increasing how often doctors and nurses visit patients. One common way to attack several key metrics in the survey is to replace an outdated overhead paging (“Paging Doctor Smith to the nurses’ station.”) with a modern silent paging system.
Beyond the obvious peace-and-quiet benefit, hospitals and clinics are finding a host of other advantages from paging. Here’s a look:
The government survey asks specifically about a peaceful environment, so this consideration is not trivial. Introducing pagers into a chaotic environment is a great way to cut down on unnecessary noise and improve standards of care. Rather than making a loud public-address announcement to everyone, nurses and doctors can use personal pagers to contact the needed party without disrupting patients who need rest. Pagers also help reduce confusion around the nurses’ station for staff, patients and their families.
Better Communication Between Staff and Patients
Patients receive more privacy and can communicate directly with hospital staff members using a patient paging system. LRS has a Room-to-Room Pushbutton Paging system that allows patients to alert staff immediately if they need assistance.
Nurses, meanwhile, can page doctors or family members with a personal paging device instead of announcing it over a loudspeaker. This allows family members to take a break and grab a meal or run some errands without worrying that they’re going to miss an update or doctor visit. All they need to do is keep their pager with them and the hospital will alert them if they’re needed.
Increased Staff Efficiency
The new Medicare standards have given hospitals more responsibilities, but many are unable to hire more employees to help with the extra workload. Instead, nurses and doctors must find ways to stretch their hours to get as much done as possible. Using pagers is a great way for the employees to communicate with each other quickly and efficiently. Pagers also make it easier to comply with federal HIPAA privacy guidelines because employees won’t make announcements everyone can hear, they will be communicating only with each other.
Hospitals that don’t make an effort to improve noise levels, communication and employee efficiency will find themselves earning smaller Medicare reimbursement payments and poor reputations. The H-Caps survey has several questions related to these areas, and upgrading your outdated PA system to an easy-to-use paging system is a great way to ensure your hospital receives high marks from patients.
Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operational efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience.