A new study, on the other hand, suggests that HCAHPS scores reflecting lower staff responsiveness are associated with an increased risk of HACs like central line–associated bloodstream infections and that lower scores may be a symptom of hospitals “with a multitude of problems.”2
A 10-Step Program
As existing rules and metrics are revised, new ones added, and others merged or discontinued, hospitalists are likely to encounter more hiccups and headaches. So what’s the solution? Beyond establishing good personal habits like hand-washing when entering and leaving a patient’s room, hospitalist leaders and healthcare analysts point to 10 strategies that may help keep HM providers from getting squeezed by all the demands:
1) Keep everyone on the same page. Because hospitals and health systems often take a subset of CMS core measures and make them strategic priorities, Dr. Whitcomb says hospitalists must thoroughly understand their own institutions’ internal system-level quality and safety goals. He stresses the need for hospitalists to develop and maintain close working connections with their organization’s safety- and quality-improvement (QI) teams “to understand exactly what the rules of the road are.”
Dr. Whitcomb says hospitals should compensate hospitalists for time spent working with these teams on feasible solutions. Hospitalist representatives can then champion specific safety or quality issues and keep them foremost in the minds of their colleagues. “I’m a big believer in paying people to do that work,” he says.
2) Take a wider view. It’s clear that most providers wouldn’t have chosen some of the performance indicators that Medicare and other third-party payors are asking them to meet, and many physicians have been more focused on outcomes than on clinical measures. Like it or not, however, thriving in the new era of health care means accepting more benchmarks. “We’ve had to broaden our scope to say, ‘OK, these other things matter, too,’” Dr. Duke says.
3) Use visual cues. Hospitalists can’t rely on memory to keep track of the dozens of measures for which they are being held accountable. “Every hospitalist program should have a dashboard of priority measures that they’re paying attention to and that’s out in front of them on a regular basis,” Dr. Whitcomb says. “It could be presented to them at monthly meetings, or it could be in a prominent place in their office, but there needs to be a set of cues.”
4) Use bonuses for alignment. Dr. Hazen says hospitals also may find success in using bonuses as a positive reinforcement for well-aligned care. Inova Fairfax’s bonuses include a clinical component that aligns with many of CMS’s core measures, and the financial incentives ensure that discharge summaries are completed and distributed in a timely manner.
5) Emphasize a team approach. Espousing a multidisciplinary approach to care can give patients the confidence that all providers are on the same page, thereby aiding patient-satisfaction scores and easing throughput. And as Dr. Hazen points out, avoiding a silo mentality can pay dividends for improving patient safety.
6) Offer the right information. Tierza Stephan, MD, regional hospitalist medical director for Allina Health in Minneapolis and the incoming chair of SHM’s Practice Analysis Committee, says Allina has worked hard to ensure that hospitalists complete their discharge summaries within 24 hours of a patient’s release from the hospital. Beyond timeliness, the health system is emphasizing content that informs without overwhelming the patient, caregiver, or follow-up provider with unnecessary details.
The discharge summary, for example, includes a section called “Recommendations for the Outpatient Provider,” which provides a checklist of sorts so those providers don’t miss the forest for the trees. The same is true for patients. “The hospital is probably not the best place to be educating patients, so we really focus more on patient instruction at discharge and then timely follow-up,” Dr. Stephan says.