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Who's Behind an HCAHPS Score?

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Background: The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey asks patients how frequently their physicians treated them with courtesy and respect, listened carefully, and explained things in a way they could understand. Such summary reports may obscure differences among the types of physicians involved. A study was conducted to examine the association between ratings for different physician types and the overall HCAHPS rating of physicians.

Methods: A mixed-methods study included closed-ended surveys and in-depth interviews of patients on a hospitalist teaching service. The three HCAHPS physician communication items were used to interview patients about their communication experiences with emergency medicine (EM) physicians, hospitalists, and specialists. The association between the overall score and the scores of each physician type was examined using Spearman correlation coefficients and linear regression. Qualitative data from additional in-depth interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method to identify recurrent themes.

Results: Ninety-six patients were recruited for the survey, and additional in-depth interviews were conducted with the first 30 patients. Hospitalist and specialist scores were significantly associated (p values < .05) with overall scores. Recurrent themes regarding determinants of patients' ratings were categorized in three broad domains: individual physician behavior, team communication, and system issues. The influence of each domain differed across physician types.

Discussion: Physician communication scores may be most strongly influenced by patient experiences with hospitalists and specialists rather than with EM physicians. Several team communication and system issues represent opportunities for improving physician communication.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2011

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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