Why the patient is King: the importance of patient satisfaction

By: Josefina Romano, DPS Marketing Coordinator & Blogger

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Patient satisfaction has always been a core principle of healthcare facilities but now with satisfaction scores having a direct impact on the bottom line, the measure and management of patient satisfaction has become a top priority at health systems across the country. Initially patient satisfaction measures and surveys were implemented to help lower healthcare costs nationwide. In 2006, the Institute of Medicine recommended incentives so that profitability of Healthcare facilities would be aligned with patient safety goals which implemented a pay-for-performance program. Later in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was passed it further enforced a value-based incentive program for all Hospitals.

How is patient satisfaction measured?

Patient satisfaction is rated using a HCAHPS survey. HCAHPS is the first national, standardized, publicly reported information that allows consumers to make comparisons across hospitals. The survey measures 10 key aspects of healthcare quality including communication with doctors and nurses, overall rating of the hospital and responsiveness of hospital staff. The survey results are then made public on the Hospital Compare website, allowing the public to compare results between individual hospitals and to national and state averages.

How does patient satisfaction affect revenue?

The move from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance means incentive funds are preferentially awarded to the higher performing hospitals. Federal Incentive Programs base 30% of their financial incentive rewards on how well Hospitals have scored on the HCAHPS survey. Hospitals that provide a higher quality of care than their peers receive reimbursement incentives, and hospitals that provide a lower quality of care are penalized.

With a growing amount of revenue at stake, hospital leaders are looking for strategies to improve the patient experience and boost their HCAHPS scores. The focus on patient feedback has already skewed hospital administrators’ agendas, and long-term hospital plans are concentrating on renovating the physical buildings, elevators, lobbies, patient floors, and also investing in luxuries such as valet parking and gourmet meals. Sometimes spending funds focusing more on the perception of good health care quality rather than actual patient health outcomes.

Do Patient Satisfaction Surveys really measure quality?

There are some that argue that physicians have shifted their medical practices to focus more on patient satisfaction. This can be both beneficial and detrimental to the outcome of patient health. Some physicians and nurses are more focused on communicating with the patient and truly listening to their issues which is one of the key metric of patient satisfaction. Other physicians have become more lenient to accede to patient requests to ensure higher ratings. Overall, as long as the main focus continues to be the patient, hospitals and physicians can expect to reap the benefits of providing efficient and excellent services.