OTs receive highest marks from patients

Satisfaction levels for HHAs reported

The good news for home health providers is that as the numbers of patients seeking home care rises, so do the satisfaction levels reported by home health patients.

In a report released by Press Ganey Associates, a South Bend, IN-based patient satisfaction survey firm, while patient satisfaction remains high, lower ratings for administrative procedures were reported, highlighting an important area of improvement for these organizations as they are about to begin reporting satisfaction data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) through a required, approved vendor.

"Press Ganey has worked with home care agencies on patient satisfaction and improvement for years, and while patient satisfaction within the industry is slowly improving, there are many challenges on the horizon," says Lisa Cone-Swartz, vice president of home care at Press Ganey Associates. "Home care agencies have no choice but to focus on continuous improvement in light of proposed health care reform that may include home care and hospice in pay-for-performance, also known as value-based purchasing."

More than 105,000 patients treated by almost 900 agencies nationwide provided perspectives on their care for the annual Home Care Pulse Report. Additional findings from the 2009 report include:

• Occupational therapists surpassed nurses as the highest-rated home care provider.

• Satisfaction levels peak in the first three months of using home care and are at the lowest levels beyond 12 months of care.

• Patients with Medicaid and private pay arrangements were less satisfied, which could directly affect the profitability of the home care agency if reform laws are passed.

• Patients were notably more satisfied when their nurses visited in the morning, between 6-10 a.m., versus in the afternoon, especially after 4 p.m.

Home care in the U.S. includes 17,000 providers caring for nearly 8 million people with acute illness, long-term health conditions, permanent disability, or terminal illnesses. The annual cost of these services is $60 billion. Continuous improvement is vital as competition and quality initiatives play a larger role in home care. Some findings from the study include:

• Improve the care experience for longer-term (12 month+) patients. Patients who received services for the shortest amount of time (0-3 months) tended to be more satisfied than long-term patients.

• Improve staff responsiveness and communication. Patients seek information about their rights, want notification of schedule changes, and expect efficient and timely resolution of complaints.

• Improve billing and scheduling processes, which received the lowest satisfaction rating.

A free copy of the 2009 Home Care Pulse Report: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care is now available at http://www.pressganey.com/HH_PulseReport_09.pdf.