2015 HME Handbook

How to Document Patient Satisfaction as Part of Accreditation

Accreditation requires documenting patient satisfaction, but there's a business case, too.

AccreditationA key element of maintaining Medicare accreditation is to document patient satisfaction. In fact, if providers neglect to track satisfaction, it can cost them points on their accreditation score. And while there might be a requirement to do so, documenting patient satisfaction, simply makes good business sense, because it can provide them with the kind of information they can use to improve their businesses.

Exactly how providers accomplish that can vary. In order to ensure their providers meet or exceed Medicare standards for service quality, the deemed accrediting organizations (AOs) have established standards for how providers should collect patient satisfaction and complaint data from their customers. However, CMS does not outline specific metrics for collecting the data or what questions providers should ask patients. Instead, CMS looks to the AOs to issue pass/fail grades regarding each provider’s overall patient satisfaction collection standards. So, each AO differs in its standards for patient satisfaction data collection.

It’s important to note that tracking customer satisfaction benefits the provider beyond simply ensuring Medicare accreditation. Patient satisfaction surveys can also help pinpoint where providers may be strong or weak in certain business areas. For example, if a provider sends a customer satisfaction survey out in the mail and receives a bad response that is not representative of its customer base, the provider can examine that response and determine ways to improve satisfaction. Or, perhaps the response wasn’t optimal because of the method used to collect the patient’s data, such as phone versus mail. So, what are some of the key things to keep in mind when it comes to tracking patient satisfaction in relation to accreditation?

The Reason for Surveys

The ultimate crux of a patient survey is that the provider understands the way a customer perceives the business, and customer satisfaction surveys open the door to that knowledge. Feedback will help a provider business find out if it is meeting the needs of its patient clients, and if not it can use that data to determine what needs to be fixed within the business so that mistakes are not repeated. That’s important because ultimately the feedback is related to healthcare. An improperly set-up wheelchair or an oxygen patient not understanding how to use his or her equipment can negatively impact that patient’s care. That’s why CMS looks to accrediting organizations to ensure that patients are ensuring patient satisfaction, and using well-documented surveys as a means to do that.

The Elements of a Satisfaction Survey

How you survey your patients is ultimately up to your accrediting organization. As mentioned, CMS does not outline how AOs should instruct their providers on surveying their patients, it simply wants them to create a model that ensures and tracks satisfaction to ensure that providers are delivering service that meets or exceeds service standards.

So your AO will likely provide guidelines that track patient satisfaction for a variety of criteria related to the provisioning of DME. Those factors can include timely delivery of equipment and supplies; that the equipment was ready for the patient to use and that the patient was provider proper instruction on how to use it; that the patient has all the necessary contact information for reaching the provider in case something goes wrong or because they might have a question; that the provider is answering questions and helping patients after the DME has been provisioned; and that the patient is satisfied.

Understand How AOs Handle Feedback

Negative feedback can be an issue. An accrediting organization must report customer complaints to CMS. The AO will regularly send any patient complaints against providers it receives to CMS. A typical complaint the complaints come from customers not being able to operate the equipment, which usually points toward the provider not going through the instructions thoroughly enough for the particular patient. There are also complaints about equipment not working properly and the provider not responding appropriately. If the patient tries repeatedly to reach the provider for help with no luck, then that will usually result in a complaint.

Use Feedback to Your Advantage

But negative feedback in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as the provider addresses the negative feedback, it can use that as an indicator that there could be a problem within the business. That can result in an opportunity to improve the business by addressing problem workflows or employees. This will give the provider an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction.

And in many circumstances the accrediting organization might work with the provider. For example, let’s say a provider sends a customer satisfaction survey out in the mail and receives a bad response that is not representative of its customer base. The problem might not lie in the business, but with the survey itself. So the AO could examine that data and give the provider recommendations to get a better response, such as instead of mailing a survey, making a phone call instead.

For providers with multiple locations, they can use their customer data to create internal benchmarks that let them compare and contrast the capacities of their various locations. This can help them increase the performance of each location by sharing best practices around the company.

And what does this all lead up to? A competitive edge. By increasing patient satisfaction the customer can ultimately use that data to improve that performance. And when patients are providing positive feedback, providers that document those results can use that patient approval as a differentiator when it comes to attracting new referral partners and expanding their business.

Points to Take Away:

  • As part of the accreditation, providers must survey patient satisfaction.
  • Medicare leaves it to the accrediting organizations on how providers conduct those surveys, but the goal is to ensure that providers are giving service that meets Medicare quality standards.
  • Providers must survey their patients and then pass the data along to the accrediting organization, which is required to pass negative feedback onto CMS.
  • Ultimately, providers should not looks at documenting patient satisfaction surveys as a tiresome obligation, but as an opportunity to identify areas of improvement, increase performance, and gain a competitive edge.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of HME Business.

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