Three Tips to Help Pharmacy Boost HCAHPS Scores

Doctor discussing healthcare options with patient

Every pharmacy can, and should, be an active participant in helping its hospital achieve higher HCAHPS scores. Historically, physicians and nurses were considered the primary players in raising a hospital’s HCAHPS scores, but data supports that pharmacy can contribute in three key areas of patient satisfaction.

What’s more, Deloitte research shows that hospitals with a better patient experience consistently show a direct correlation to clinical quality, profitability, lower medical malpractice risk for physicians, and lower staff turnover ratios. Between 2008 and 2014, Deloitte found hospitals with excellent HCAHPS ratings were significantly more profitable:

Net Margin for All Hospitals:

  • 4.7% in hospitals with excellent HCAHPS
  • 1.8% in hospitals with low HCAHPS

Net Margin for Government Hospitals:

  • 2.2% in hospitals with excellent HCAHPS
  • 0.6% in hospitals with low HCAHPS

Of the 32 areas measured in the HCAHPS survey, 33 percent can be impacted directly by pharmacy:

  • Staff responsiveness
  • Perceptions of pain management
  • Medication information, both in-hospital and upon discharge

To help your hospital improve patient perception in these areas, here are three tangible steps to higher HCAHPS scores.

Step 1: Improve perceptions of staff responsiveness

At one CompleteRx hospital, the pharmacy first implemented an important culture change by creating a no-pass zone. This meant that everyone was expected to respond to a call light. Of course, pharmacy staff couldn’t perform the same tasks a nurse or doctor could, but patients felt that someone cared enough to stop and answer their call for help.

To overcome staff reluctance to join in this effort, all pharmacy staff received extra training on how to greet a patient and their caregivers and how to triage matters to appropriate personnel.

Staff responsiveness was recorded on special cards that were turned into the pharmacy director. These cards noted the room number, date and time, patient need, and action taken. Monthly goals were set and staff were recognized for their efforts. The hospital’s HCAHPS scores for staff responsiveness rose dramatically.

In a small hospital with staff limitations, such an effort might be confined to one or two floors where pharmacy support or pain management is most often needed.

Step 2: Pay attention to pain management

The HCAHPS questionnaire now focuses on communication about pain management rather than questions that were thought to support over-prescription of opioids. This has led to a growing importance in pharmacy staff supporting pain management consultations on the wards, since high levels of pain control strongly correlate to specific HCAHPS scores.

One CompleteRx hospital saw its pain management score increase 52 percent after implementing a process for pharmacy staff to support more responsive, more robust pain management consultations with patients.

Step 3: Expand patient education about medications

Communication about new medications, whether given while the patient is in hospital or upon discharge, offers another important opportunity for pharmacy to positively shape their hospital’s HCAHPS scores.

CompleteRx has created a series of medication information cards that can be presented during a discharge consultation. The content is geared to a 6th grade reading level with important side effects highlighted. One CompletRx pharmacy distributed roughly 1,500 medication cards in six months, and the hospital’s communication about medication scores improved 76 percent.

If your pharmacy struggles with a small staff, it may be helpful to begin your program by targeting the most complex patients first, since these clients typically need the most care and offer the greatest chance for poor experiences, poor outcomes and re-admissions.

A few more tips to help your pharmacy contribute to your hospital’s HCAHPS scores include:

  • Don’t forget medications when developing patient education materials.
  • Remind patients about non-pharmacological pain management therapies during their hospital stay and when educating them about going home.
  • Build regular pain evaluations into a patient’s entire stay to catch deteriorating situations before pain gets out of control.
  • Promote a robust antibiotic stewardship program to help reduce hospital-borne infections and improve outcomes and patient satisfaction.
  • Consider offering specialty pharmacy services such as home infusion therapy and supplies if your hospital is located in an under-served market.


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