Healthcare industry can't get no (patient) satisfaction

Even as the healthcare industry puts an increasing emphasis on customer service, a new report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) finds that overall patient satisfaction has dropped.

The ACSI uses data culled from the more than 70,000 consumer interviews it conducts annually to score industries on a scale of 0 to 100. The healthcare sector overall scored a 75.1 in 2015, a 3.2 percent decrease from its 2014 score, which means patient satisfaction is at its "lowest level in nearly a decade," according to the report.

But while customer satisfaction may be down, demand for healthcare services is anything but. Preliminary figures suggest household healthcare spending rose nearly 6 percent in 2014, which would be the largest increase since the start of the recession, the report states.

Though the trends of lower satisfaction and higher demand may seem to be at odds, one actually informs the other, ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg said in an announcement.

"The influx of the newly insured is putting pressure on a system that is still playing catch up," he said. "Rising demand that is outpacing supply, coupled with increasing healthcare costs, is a formula for lower satisfaction."

One bright spot, however, is the fact that the healthcare sector has added scores of jobs in recent months, which the report suggests may lead to greater satisfaction scores in the future.

Customer satisfaction is not at the same level for all aspects of the healthcare industry, however. Consumers were more satisfied with ambulatory care than the quality of care hospitals provide.

As for hospital-centric services, outpatient care netted a score of 80, marking a 5 percent increase since 2014, while inpatient services' satisfaction score slid from an 81 to a 78. Emergency department care, meanwhile, experienced the greatest level of change in customer satisfaction, plunging 10 percent between 2014 and 2015 to reach a score of 64.

A recent report indicated that patient volume at EDs increased in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, a trend the ACSI report hints may be to blame for the dip in customer satisfaction, as it notes that "nationally, ER wait times have been especially problematic."

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read the announcement

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