How To Maximize CAHPS Scores While Reducing Opioid Prescriptions

It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic, a topic currently in the public health limelight, has hit the country hard. Thousands of Americans are struggling with narcotic addictions every day. When healthcare professionals looked into the matter, what they found was shocking: the opioid addictions we are seeing in mass usually have harmless beginnings at a doctor’s office.

It is not uncommon to see your PCP to help manage pain. However, many providers have felt pressured to prescribe opioid pain medication in order to ease pain and assure patients they are trying to better their care. This dangerous trend has unfortunately made it very easy for the public to become reliant on powerful narcotics, many even seeking illegal alternatives.

Without prescriptions, patients feel their providers are not doing enough to treat their pain, often resulting in lower patient satisfaction scores. In an effort to listen to patient needs, providers are faced with a challenge in balancing pain management without creating a dependency on potentially addicting medication.

Sadly, U.S. emergency rooms now treat more than 1,000 people every day for misusing prescription opioids. According to the CDC, more than 47,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2014, a record high, and more than 60% of those deaths involved an opioid. Despite these numbers, providers still feel pushed to prescribe narcotic medication in an effort to achieve high patient satisfaction scores.

So, what can providers do to retain high CAHPS scores while reducing opioid prescriptions? The answer lies in recognizing that patients expect a personal relationship that shows compassion and care. They want to feel heard and understood. Here are some steps that your team can take to ensure a positive overall patient experience:

  1. Be Friendly: make eye contact, smile, use thoughtful language that is empathetic and understanding.  Don’t label them as “drug seekers” because patients will see right through that and may distrust the advice you give.  
  2. Engage the patient: pay attention, preserve dignity, and respect modesty.  Ask them about what they can do to improve the management of their pain.  
  3. Educate the patient: have a discussion but not a lecture (informing and explaining also promotes compliance)  Provide some alternatives and options to patients by referencing resources available through websites or pain clinics.  
  4. Recognize and congratulate patients on their successes! Small wins are key.  

In addition to provider-centric interactions, there are other factors of a patient’s visit that can easily be improved. For instance, ensuring an aesthetically pleasing office that is properly spaced and equipped can go a long way. The office or waiting area is the first exposure a patient has to the practice or facility, so a well kept waiting area often provides patients with a favorable first impression of the caregiver.  Ensuring the staff provides a warm welcome to all patients is key.  

It is also important to provide a mechanism to receive and resolve complaints. By ensuring that patients feel heard, facilities are more likely to get a higher CAHPS score. Although paper surveys sent out via mail offer an avenue for feedback, patients respond slowly, if at all. By deploying a feedback mechanism at the facility itself for quick issue resolution, patients understand that you genuinely care about their experience.

Ultimately, it is possible to provide a patient-centered experience despite a reduction in narcotic medications. By focusing on engaging the patient thoughtfully and empathetically while ensuring a properly equipped facility, your team can still maximize the chances of optimal patient satisfaction. To learn more about how CipherHealth can help you achieve high CAHPS scores, contact us today.

As the Vice President of Clinical Services, Lyndsey Lord, MBA, BSN, RN brings over 15 years of experience in clinical practice, healthcare operations, case management, patient throughput, and healthcare IT strategy to her current role at CipherHealth. Prior to joining CipherHealth, Lyndsey worked with healthcare providers to implement alternative payment models, such as BPCI, and supported clinical care redesign efforts to promote success within value-based healthcare programs. Lyndsey is passionate about leveraging technology and data to assist providers in delivering high-quality, low-cost care.