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Focused on patient loyalty? Look beyond HCAHPS scores.

Posted by Todd Johnson on May 13, 2019

HCAHPS scores, a measure of patient satisfaction, have long been the primary qualification by which health systems measure patient experience. And while these scores can tell us important things about the inpatient experience, there've been no "bulletproof" studies linking excellence on HCAHPS to increased market share or patient retention.

Progressive, growth-focused health systems hope to drive consumer loyalty—a stat that can't be inferred from HCAHPS scores.

Most health systems pour time, energy and resources into improving their results, believing that HCAHPS measure patient experience. Keep in mind, however, that the patient’s experience starts before admission and isn’t over until the patient has returned to normalcy. And in that time, patients are interfacing with primary care, pharmacies, home health care management and more.

So where should innovative health systems look to reduce patient leakage and focus their attention? Technology might just be the secret to keeping patients satisfied, happy and in-network.

Turning to technology

Rather than focusing just on the inpatient measures alone, truly innovative health systems are shifting their focus to patient loyalty, aiming to delight their patients across the continuum to optimize utilization and reduce leakage. These metrics will drive higher-level change and help tip the scales.

And there’s good news to be had here: When it comes to using technology to tackle these problems, health systems find themselves at a major advantage. After all, who better to utilize their access to technology and sheer size for the good of patients than an organization that has invested in a broad array of clinical specialties, levels of care and post-acute support? Health systems can use their breadth to create an unfair advantage in keeping patients in-network.

Take the case of a patient newly diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF), for example. Complex patients require many follow-up services from hospitals and medical groups. Our hypothetical CHF patient will need a primary care physician after discharge, but their care team doesn’t stop there — they’ll likely also need rehab, a cardiologist, a pharmacy and any number of other moving parts for their ongoing treatment.

Or consider an orthopedic patient. They’ll need not only their surgeon and primary care physician, but post-operative physical therapy, a pharmacy and possibly even home health care. The list is long, and it will continue to grow as the patient’s care continues.

For the CHF patient, the orthopedic patient and so many others, a health system is in prime position to provide all of these services. And by looking at a patient’s care holistically and using technology to manage interactions across providers, the end result will be a smoother, better-coordinated experience that will increase patient satisfaction by default.

How is this put into play? A health system looking to increase loyalty and reduce leakage can and should rely on technology to reach their patient populations. Digital tech can help providers anticipate patient needs, solve patient problems and deliver solutions in a courteous, helpful and empathetic manner.

Technology like GetWell Loop, for example, helps organizations provide guidance and recommendations across their own in-network services. This makes it not only easy for patients to get the care they need but also ensures they stay within the system of providers.

By engaging patients before and after admission via automated daily check-ins, solutions like GetWell Loop help meet patients where they are, elevating the patient experience from start to finish. By connecting to the right provider at the right time, they make the experience so seamless that many patients won’t want to look outside the network for care.

Simply put, hospitals and health systems can use their scale and access to these technologies to their advantage, all by helping patients throughout their healthcare journey.

More than just scores

This is why it’s so important that health systems elevate their goals from patient satisfaction (as measured by HCAHPS scores) to patient loyalty and ease of use throughout the entire system and care journey. Healthcare organizations will want to aim for a seamless, coordinated and convenient experience.

HCAHPS scores tell a story, certainly, but they don’t paint an entire picture. A patient’s measure of their true experience is much more complex than any one point of care, and the health systems that help patients manage across their care will emerge the winners.