Satisfied?

December 13, 2011 —

I’d like to believe health care professionals are committed to patient satisfaction, but going forward the level of “care quality” will take on greater importance: Starting in October 2012, according to Healthcare.gov, Medicare will reward hospitals “that provide high quality care for their patients through the new Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program…for the first time, hospitals across the country will be paid for inpatient acute care services based on care quality, not just the quantity of services they provide.”

The program will use quality measures relating to reductions in length of patient stays, occurrence of preventable illness or injury in the facility, and errors in hospital care. These issues add to patient suffering and lead to significant unnecessary health care spending.

That has some hospitals worried. The New York Timesreported some institutions say lack of costly amenities and tasty food will harm patient satisfaction; others fret that patients in areas that tend to get lower ratings, like the Northeast and California, in general complain more about issues than we nice Midwesterners or Southerners do.

Will patients be happy to be here?

“Hospitals are going be punished financially by the federal government for things they can’t control,” Dr. James Merlino, chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic, told The New York Times.

Not so fast, say several Iowa hospital CEOs. In an Iowa Hospital Association blog post, David Brandon, CEO of the Finley Hospital in Dubuque, Iowa, tells author Scott McIntyre, “I think the focus needs to be on what staff, physicians and leaders can do to improve the patient experience instead of the ‘throw up your hands’ approach and blaming patients for being more difficult.”

The IHA blog further states that Dubuque is in a multi-county hospital referral region (HRR) that ranks in the top 20 nationwide for patient satisfaction. Out of nearly 300 HHRs, Manhattan is dead last and Cleveland is 237th.

Patient satisfaction is “directly related to quality outcomes, financial results and employee engagement,” Monroe County (IA) Hospital CEO Greg Paris tells IHA’s McIntyre. Better communication to patients, frequent rounding to improve care and reduce patient falls, checklists that reduce errors and discharge calls after patients leave the hospital are among the factors that enhance patient care, outcomes and contentment.

It’s in a hospital’s best self interest to improve its scores in these areas, Paris adds. “The next generation will pick their hospital based on outcomes and experience, not just by where their doctor sends them,” he says.

What do you believe hospitals should do provide both high-quality care and satisfactory patient experiences? What are the barriers in their success?


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