Quality Patient Care During the Holiday Season

December 11, 2014
Rachel V. Rose, JD, MBA
Rachel V. Rose, JD, MBA

Rachel V. Rose, JD, MBA, advises clients on compliance and transactions in healthcare, cybersecurity, corporate and securities law, while representing plaintiffs in False Claims Act and Dodd-Frank whistleblower cases. She also teaches bioethics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Rachel can be reached through her website, www.rvrose.com.

What do "tidings of comfort and joy" have to do with patient care and reimbursement? A lot can be gleaned from these five words.

In light of the holiday season, I thought about my past experiences as a dietary aide and an operating-room aide in college. During this time of the year I always volunteered to work overtime and on the holidays for one reason - I noticed that so many patients did not have family members close to them. And, there is no worse feeling than being alone and being sick. This is especially true for hospice patients.

Broken down, the individual words of "tidings of comfort and joy" translate to news that is consoling and brings happiness or elation. As a provider, physicians have the ability to impact people in a multitude of ways; through touch, words, and time. Be attentive to patients and appreciate that everyone does not have what a majority of us often take for granted; family and friends.

There is another reason - patient surveys and their ability to affect reimbursement. "The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), along with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), developed the HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Survey, also known as Hospital CAHPS®, to provide a standardized survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients' perspectives on hospital care." This survey is randomly administered and contains a total of 32 questions, which are both objective and subjective in nature. Of the 32 questions, over half relate to communication.

The goal of these surveys is to link quality of care to payment. And, if the patients and their families have a positive encounter with the physician and the hospital staff, there is a strong likelihood that the surveys will receive more positive responses, which will correlate positively with better reimbursement. Value-based purchasing is one area these surveys are utilized and beginning in January 2015, hospices will also have a survey.

While high-quality patient care should always be the standard, take the extra time to bring your patients "tidings of comfort and joy" in both word and deed. It will serve physicians well in many ways.