With the recent reveal of the Patient Satisfaction Star Ratings on CMS’s Home Health Compare Website, many agencies are looking at ways to improve their patient satisfaction scores and achieve — or maintain — the coveted 5-star designation. While the star ratings awarded to agencies only tell part of the story, as Quality of Care star ratings are determined by a separate set of criteria, many patients and referring providers will take patient satisfaction into consideration when selecting a provider.
Of course, the most obvious way to improve scores on the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) survey is to directly address deficiencies noted in the survey results. That being said, there is a correlation between your employees’ engagement and the patient experience — after all, satisfied employees tend to be higher performers for your agency — so it only makes sense that you can give your HHCAHPS results a boost by focusing on the people who have the most direct effect on them: Your employees.
Employee Engagement: What Is It?
So what is employee engagement? In the simplest terms, employee engagement is the relationship between an employer and an employee that motivates an employee to do their jobs well — or the opposite. When an employee doesn’t particularly care about their employer or their job, it shows. Lack of engagement can manifest in many ways including not showing up to work on time and frequently calling in, and not putting in more than minimal effort to their tasks — if that. We’ve all encountered employees who aren’t engaged in their work, and usually, it means a bad experience customer-service wise.
However, employee engagement isn’t just important in theory. It’s not just some “feel good” HR concept that doesn’t apply to the real world of health care providers who often face challenging situations and a seemingly endless list of patient needs to meet. Studies show that employee engagement is a vital part of quality health care delivery.
In one Gallup poll, for example, nurse engagement was the number-one variable that correlated to patient mortality. Other studies have tied employee engagement to higher revenues, lower rates of infection, and higher rates of service.
Often, though, managers confuse employee satisfaction or happiness with engagement. Someone can be very happy in their job, and still not be focused on meeting patient needs or being a productive member of your team. That lack of commitment often shows up in patient surveys. A patient or family member might think that your employee is a very nice person and pleasant to work with, but if he or she doesn’t meet their expectations, they aren’t going to be satisfied — and that dissatisfaction will show up in your HHCAHPS results.
Improving Employee Engagement
According to a Gallup poll, more than 70 percent of all employees across industries are either disengaged or actively disengaged with their work at any given time. Truthfully, almost everyone disengages at one point or another, and fails to deliver their most quality work or remain productive. Distractions (both in and outside of work), economic factors, even changes in the season can all lead to periods of disengagement.
However, to keep your patients satisfied and ensure the performance of your agency, you need employees who are engaged with their work the majority of the time. It’s not always easy to do, but you have to focus on building relationships with your employees and giving them a reason to want to do their best and maintain their productivity. When that happens, your patient satisfaction scores are more likely to remain high.
So what can you do?
1. Learn to recognize disengagement. It’s often easy to spot when someone is “going through the motions.” If you see disengagement happening, take steps to correct the problem.
2. Hire for cultural fit as well as skills. Be upfront about your culture and expectations at every point of the hiring process. Understand that just because someone has the clinical skills doesn’t mean that they are a good fit for your agency. Implement behavioral screenings as part of the hiring process; these could include specific interview questions to ask, or formal testing.
3. Provide the training and tools for success. Employees who are struggling to do their jobs get frustrated, and frustration leads to disengagement. For example, providing employees with intuitive, advanced home health software that helps them do their jobs can help improve performance by removing road blocks.
4. Recognize excellence. There’s a saying that people who feel appreciated will always do more than expected. Show your employees that you appreciate them on an ongoing basis, and make rewards and recognition meaningful.
5. Provide opportunities for growth. One of the top drivers of engagement is a sense that the employee feels like they can grow and advance with the company. No one wants to be stuck in a hamster wheel for years. Offer your employees the opportunity to grow personally and professionally via continuing education, ongoing training, and opportunities for advancement.
Again, improving HHCAHPS scores often hinges on addressing the issues identified by the survey results. That being said, one of the best ways to do that is to evaluate your staff’s engagement and make changes to improve your work environment. Undoubtedly, your patients will notice — and care will improve.
To learn more about home health software solutions that can help improve employee engagement, check out Complia Health’s resources page here.