The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey measures the perception of care delivery from a patient point of view. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) have historically used this survey as a measure of healthcare delivery effectiveness. Beginning FY 2013, they started measuring hospital’s performance on HCAHPS and made it accountable as a part of value based purchasing program. I have done research with several colleagues from operations and medicine assessing the relationships between HCAHPS survey outcomes and hospital’s clinical performance such as 30-day readmissions (See https://hbr.org/2015/09/what-has-the-biggest-impact-on-hospital-readmission-rates).
However, there has always been a skepticism among physicians on the use of this survey instrument. I have listened to so many physicians criticizing this tool and blaming it for subjectivity and other measurement issues (e.g. anonymity, scaling issues etc). While their arguments on the survey instrument has some merits, this is the only standardized tool deployed across US hospitals. My argument has always been that despite these issues, HCAHPS allows hospitals to evaluate their care delivery process (not the people!) and can be used to improve them on a continuous basis. I clearly understand my limitations as a business school professor (a pseudo Doctor) discussing the benefits of patient-centric healthcare delivery among the real doctors with MDs. Now I am not alone in making this argument. A recent study in the JAMA Internal Medicine (http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2513630) supports this viewpoint and finds that hospitals with better ratings on HCAHPS are associated with reduced 30-day readmission rates and risk adjusted mortality rates. The study co-authored by Ashish Jha and his colleagues analyzed data from 3076 hospitals and finds that hospitals with higher star ratings are associated (note -not causality!) with lower readmissions and mortality.
The real question is that whether this would trigger some changes among physicians on the utility value of HCAHPS now that their fellow physicians arrive at a similar conclusions that are published top medical journal – only time will tell!