Thousands of long term and community-based providers already measure resident and family satisfaction and experience. But experience measurement without context is one-dimensional. If you present your resident satisfaction and recommendation scores from last year to a local hospital, hoping to differentiate your organization, they will more than likely ask you to qualify those numbers.
They may ask you to provide trended improvement metrics for the past three to five years. They may request staff engagement metrics. They may ask what initiatives you have in place to improve resident experiences, staff engagement, and person-centered care at your organization. They may point to negative mentions of your home or community from past residents or family members on social media or online reviews such as Yelp—and ask what you have done to protect and restore your reputation. And the list goes on.

How Are You Differentiating Your Organization?

Providers of long term and community-based services must go beyond experience measurement to position an organization as a highly favorable care coordination partner with hospitals, health systems, and accountable care organizations (ACOs). You’ll need proof that you are improving over time—or at least have action plans in place with improvement objectives. If you know how to make use of your data, you’ll not only become a much more promising candidate to forge lasting strategic partnerships, you’ll improve your reputation and brand equity (which are also important to hospitals).

Do you understand how to use the data you have? Have you set realistic improvement goals and prescriptive action plans? How do you measure staff engagement and communicate out to your stakeholders? Can you prove that your culture cultivates person-centered care? Are you doing everything you can to improve your organization’s reputation?

What Are You Doing With Your Data?

More often than not, providers will measure resident and family satisfaction—and then stop. Potential for greater intelligence is wasted when no steps are taken to enact improvement initiatives. For those who do attempt improvement plans, many don’t know average rates of improvement, set unrealistic improvement goals, and then become discouraged when they fall short. Staff end up disenchanted, adoption is abandoned, and culture suffers.

Some ways you can set successful action plans in motion include making use of resources you have access to already. Whether it’s an electronic health record vendor or an experience measurement firm, you should confirm that they do more than just measure. Ask what types of improvement content they make available, what educational resources come with their solutions, and find out if they feature action plan templates and prescriptive reporting tools. This is a good place to start.

How Does Staff Engagement Drive Customer Recommendations?

Providers that are serious about improvement and effectively moving scores upward understand you need frontline staff to gain adoption for quality initiatives. Measuring staff engagement is essential.

For example, according to the 2013 National Research Report for Post-Acute Providers, six of the seven top drivers for resident and family recommendation of skilled nursing homes (n=6,500+) are staff driven:

1. Care (concern) of Staff

2. Competency of Staff

3. Registered Nurse/Licensed Vocational
     Nurse/Licensed Practical Nurse Care

4. Choices/Preferences (only driver not staff driven)

5. Responsiveness of Management

6. Certified Nurse Assistant/Nurse Assistant Care

7. Respectfulness of Staff

When National Research Corporation asked top-performing providers that measure employee satisfaction and staff engagement using the My InnerView Employee Program, we found similarities in how they use the data to improve. Most employ a model known as “simplify, push, prescribe.” Simplify the data findings into bite-sized insights that are jargon-free. Push the information out to staff to give them a proactive stake in improving their culture. Prescribe ideas to improve, invite staff participation and feedback, and gain consensus on organizational initiatives to address areas that need attention.

Why Does Brand Reputation Matter?

Customer and staff experience measurement and improvement plans are one of the best ways to invest in building brand reputation. But the proliferation of social media makes word of mouth and the ability to evaluate reputations online easier than ever. As consumers of health care become increasingly informed and empowered to make their own health care decisions, reputation has become an integral part of the selection process.

Back in the day, long term care and senior living providers were all about location, location, location. Today, that notion is far less important—with the possible exception of ultra-rural zones—and the trend of empowered consumerism is expected to continue. Referral sources now trump location. And now reputation is the single biggest factor that new residents follow.

Hospitals know this. Hospitals understand this. Hospitals live this.

In a 2012 Market Insights survey fielded nationwide by National Research Corporation, 87 percent of almost 270,000 consumers indicated that reputation is important when selecting a hospital.

What makes this study remarkable is that the results of correlation analyses indicate that patient experience (two global Hospital Consumer Assesment of Healthcare Providers and Systems [CAHPS]* measures for recommendation and overall hospital rating) and hospital reputation are positively and significantly related (Dr. Katie Johnson, “The Link Between Patient Experience and Hospital Reputation,” National Research Corporation, February 2014).

What’s more, low-quality patient experiences were found to be more predictive and powerful in impacting hospital reputation. Whether this is because poor experiences are more memorable or more likely to cause consumers to share experiences, poor quality becomes well-known in the marketplace. And considering Market Insights data show providers of long term and community-based services are least trusted in health care—rating below doctors and nurses, hospitals, pharmacies, home health services, and insurance companies—you can gain a sense of how brand and reputation impact consumer behavior.
Bottom line, health care organizations need to realize that the consumer is now empowered. They are finding more information, asking questions online and through social media networks.

Your brand, reputation, and resident experiences no longer begin and end with admission and discharge. The best way to manage your brand and reputation is to better understand the drivers of resident, employee, and consumer experiences and make greater use of your data and enact improvement plans to gain insights that matter most to consumers and care coordination partners. 
*Hospital CAHPS is a public reporting initiative mandated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that asks patients to rate their experiences with respect to various health care delivery systems. These ratings are shared by CMS publicly through Hospital Compare, and CMS reimbursement is now tied to these scores.

Jason Stevens is Senior Vice President of Business Development for National Research Corporation. He oversees sales and strategic thought leadership efforts for the company’s experience measurement products and services, including My InnerView by National Research. He is located out of the company’s headquarters in Lincoln, Neb. National Research Corporation is the leading experience and quality measurement firm in the United States, specializing in evidence-based insights that empower customer-centric health care across the continuum.