Can patient satisfaction gauge the true nature of care?

Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores to be directly tied to 30 percent of Medicare's incentive payments in October has made patient satisfaction a top priority for hospitals. Yet evaluating a hospitals' quality of care using patient experience ignores the true and oftentimes unpleasant nature of medicine, according to a New York Times editorial.

"In order to heal, we must first hurt," oncology nurse Theresa Brown wrote, noting that physical pain and related emotional suffering are fundamental to hospital care.

In addition to HCAHPS survey questions on communication, cleanliness and quietness, hospitals need to ask deeper questions to effectively evaluate the patient experience. For instance, hospitals should ask whether procedures accomplished their goals or whether patients got better despite the suffering caused by care, she said.

While Brown maintains that hospitals are not hotels, new research supports the notion that hotel-like hospital design can affect outcomes. The study published in The Cochrane Library found that elements of the hospital environment, such as sounds, pictures, aromas, air quality, furnishings and layout, can influence patient recovery.

For more:
- read the NYT op-ed
- check out the study abstract