CAHPS Surveys Measure Patient Perception of Access to Care

With the influx of so many new Oregon Health Plan members, it may be more difficult for providers to meet the needs of patients. Barriers your patients may be facing are a shortage of providers, lack of transportation and long waits to get an appointment. Improving the access to timely care and information helps increase the quality of care and your patients’ perceptions.

One of 17 quality health metrics for InterCommunity Health Network CCO (IHN-CCO) is the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey measuring access to care. This metric measures the percentage of patients (adults and children) who thought they received appointments and care when they needed them. According to IHN-CCO metric data in 2011, only 82 percent of IHN-CCO members felt they received appointments and care when they needed it. In 2013, this number increased to 85.8 percent.

Here are 10 practical ways you can impact your patients’ perception of access to timely care:

  1. Provide clear directions and thorough explanations.
  2. Make patients feel welcome in your practice.
  3. Make sure patients receive appointments within acceptable time frames.
  4. Maintain adequate staffing levels.
  5. Be courteous and helpful.
  6. Allow time during appointments to validate your patients’ understanding of their health condition(s) and the service(s) required for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  7. Educate patients and speak to them during each visit about their preventive health care needs and disease management goals.
  8. Make sure that the patient understands your answers to their questions.
  9. Try to see your office as the patient might see it. Do a walkthrough; become the patient.
  10. Try to identify system, flow and attitude problems.

For more ways to improve the patient-care experience, refer to the CAHPS Improvement Guide.

A satisfied patient builds trusting relationships with the provider and staff, resulting in positive health outcomes because the patient is more likely to follow clinical advice. The opposite is true as well—an unsatisfied patient will result in poorer outcomes and is likely to share his or her negative stories with friends and family. Poor customer service has a grapevine effect. Over 50 percent of people who have had a bad experience will not complain openly to the plan or medical group. However, research shows the nearly all patients (96 percent) are likely to tell at least 10 other people about their bad experience.*

In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

*American Society for Quality. Basic Facts on Customer Complaint Behavior and the impact of Service on the Bottom Line. Competitive Advantage: ASQ Newsletter, 1999.

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