As hospitals focus resources and efforts on boosting patient satisfaction, they should keep in mind that patients' perception of their care is not synonymous with their clinical performance.
Despite being well-liked by patients, more than 120 of the top U.S. hospitals have death rates for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia significantly higher than the national average, according to a USA TODAY analysis of new Medicare data. Nevertheless, the hospitals were recommended by two-thirds of their patients or received patient satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.
Even some of the some of the most renowned teaching hospitals don't perform well in preventing healthcare-acquired infections, according to a Consumer Reports Health hospital ratings list last month.
This gap in patients' perceptions of quality of care and hospitals' death and readmission questions how to accurately measure hospitals. However, healthcare experts still haven't agreed on what measures to use, notes USA Today.
"You can judge how it feels to be in the hospital," Yale cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, who helped revise Medicare's hospital rating method, told USA Today. "But you can't judge whether they're doing everything well on the medical side."
In order to help patients make better informed decisions about where to receive care, as well as to receive incentives under new pay-for-performance models, hospitals should report patient satisfaction scores along with more concrete measures of patient care.
"Patients are good at judging which places are clean, whether people responded to their needs and whether they're getting adequate pain relief,"said Judith Hibbard, an expert on how patients perceive healthcare. "[B]ut there's lots of information that's not captured in patient survey data that people should also pay attention to."