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Why quality of care and patient satisfaction should matter to your agency

As patient satisfaction surveys begin to affect Medicare reimbursement for physicians and hospitals, EMS agencies should consider ways to improve care and reduce costs

The following is paid content sponsored by EMS Management & Consultants.

By EMS1 BrandFocus Staff

It doesn’t cost anything to be nice, as the old saying goes, and a little compassion can go a long way when it comes to patient care and satisfaction.

Emphasize patient satisfaction in your training protocols and incorporate patient surveys into your process before these scores become part of the reimbursement process.
Emphasize patient satisfaction in your training protocols and incorporate patient surveys into your process before these scores become part of the reimbursement process. (Image/iStock)

No initiatives currently impact EMS reimbursement based on a patient satisfaction survey score, but as Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and physicians are increasingly structured according to these scores, it’s likely that EMS agencies will have to start measuring and reporting them as well.

Surveys to measure patient satisfaction scores take into consideration such things as communication and responsiveness of the healthcare personnel, cleanliness and quietness of the environment, pain management, providing clear instructions regarding discharge and medications and whether the patient would recommend the care provider to others.

These elements will be especially pertinent as EMS agencies work with hospitals to help them meet their “Triple Aim” goals under the Affordable Care Act. Simply put, the Triple Aim means improving overall health care for individuals and improving the patient experience (including quality of care and patient satisfaction) while also reducing costs.

What does this mean for EMS?

How can your agency begin building a foundation for a successful Triple Aim effort? Start with an extra dose of kindness. Patients want caregivers to listen, to empathize with them and to treat them with courtesy and respect.

Clear communication is paramount. While healthcare providers are concentrating on providing the best in technology, evidence-based medical protocols and safety, communication skills must remain a critical piece of the pie. 

Most health care providers, particularly EMS, don’t think about the patient being a customer, said Kim Stanley, chief customer officer for EMS Management & Consultants, but providers are becoming much more aware that that person is a customer and that they could shop elsewhere for their health care needs. Remember that family, friends and bystanders are customers, too, and their opinions count as well.

Stanley recommends focusing on communication skills and showing empathy to ensure patient satisfaction. Explain things to patients and their family members in lay terms so that they understand what’s happening. Let your patients know you care about them and their health, and treat them with kindness.

Research supports that improving the way that you communicate with the patient improves both outcomes and perception. They feel better informed, safer in their environment, less anxious and more satisfied with the service.

“There’s certainly a comfort element, especially in EMS,” Stanley said. “When you’re dealing with the patient is usually the worst day of that patient’s life.”

What can your agency do to measure patient satisfaction? 

Get ahead of the game. Begin to emphasize patient satisfaction in your training protocols and incorporate patient satisfaction surveys into your process before these scores become part of the reimbursement process.

Take a cue from hospitals and ask your patients how you’re doing. Create a patient satisfaction survey that asks a series of questions about the patient’s experience from first contact with EMS, including dispatch, the care that they were provided, the cleanliness of the ambulance, how prompt and how helpful the dispatch and EMT personnel were and even billing.

Here are a few sample questions:

  • How helpful was the person you called for ambulance services?
  • How courteous/professional were the medics who arrived with the ambulance?
  • Rate the extent to which the medics listened to you/kept you informed of your treatment.
  • Rate the cleanliness of the ambulance.
  • How satisfied are you with the care that was provided?
  • Do you feel that the services received were worth the fees charged?

How and when the surveys are delivered matters. During or after billing is probably not the best time to get the patient’s feedback. Most survey companies call the patient seven to 10 days after the services are delivered but before they get the bill.

Phone contact often yields better results than a mailed or online survey, as written surveys get very little response – and most people take the time to write something only if they’ve had a bad experience. In addition, the personal touch of a phone call demonstrates an effort to build a relationship with the patient and makes responding more convenient.

Engaging a consultant can help your agency with these efforts as well. Outsourcing billing to a third party can relieve the administrative burden of follow-up and allow your agency to focus on the core functions of patient care and customer service. EMS Management & Consultants, which offers third-party billing services, also can provide patient satisfaction surveys as an added value to its customers.

Most of us got into this profession to help people. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind or have a positive attitude on the job. Although patient satisfaction is not currently a metric that determines EMS payments, hospitals and physicians are already using surveys to follow up and improve their quality of care. Building strong rapport with patients, family members and the community at large can help boost patient satisfaction and ultimately revenue.

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