Keep customer service top of mind

Ensure staff members know what patients will rate

Preparing your staff for implementation of the Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HH-CAHPS) patient survey program requires a different approach than preparation for OASIS-C, says Sue Squibb, BSN, director of consulting services for The Corridor Group in Overland Park, KS. "Success with OASIS-C reflects how well your staff members document and answer questions on the OASIS form," she says. "Success with HH-CAHPS depends on how well your staff members act."

Don't just tell staff members that patients will receive a satisfaction survey; let them see the questionnaire, suggests Nancy Ponder, RN, national director of clinical operations and quality management for Aseracare. "Our staff members see the patient satisfaction survey, so they understand what questions patients will be asked about their care," she says.

Also, make sure staff members understand the potential future importance of good patient satisfaction results on the agency's bottom line, says Ponder. "Pay-for-performance for home health is coming, and patient satisfaction scores will be an important part of an agency's performance ratings," she says. "Our educational sessions include discussions of how patient satisfaction results affect everyone in the agency."

If necessary, provide customer service training to staff members, suggests Squibb. Remember that questions on the survey do not just apply to nurses, she says. Not only are there questions about therapists and aides, but there are also questions about the home health agency office personnel and their ability to provide advice and answer questions, she adds.

In order for a home health agency to maintain good patient satisfaction ratings, the commitment to patient satisfaction must be part of the corporate culture, points out Ponder. "Aseracare's commitment to patient satisfaction is an integral part of the organization's philosophy, not just an activity to meet a regulatory requirement," she explains. "We live and breathe customer service."

One way Aseracare keeps customer service top-of-mind for all staff members is to start each meeting or conference call with a service excellence story, says Ponder.

Recently, a story surfaced that described a nurse who arrived at the patient's home to find it blocked by snow. Rather than turn around because she couldn't get up the driveway to the house, the nurse shoveled the snow off the driveway and went inside to make the visit. Because the person who normally fixed the patient's meals couldn't make it to the house that day, the nurse also fixed the patient something to eat.

"Stories like this are important to share," says Ponder. "If we didn't share them, no one would understand how often our employees go the extra mile for our patients. It is also a wonderful way to recognize those employees for their efforts."