Hospital satisfaction takes a hit

According to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which collects customer feedback in industries ranging from technology to television to healthcare, U.S. hospital patients are unhappier than they've been in six years, with a current satisfaction score of 73 out of 100. Emergency departments fared even worse, with a score of 54, though ambulatory care satisfaction rose 1 percent, to a score of 81, the release reports.

ED woes brought a 12 percent dip in satisfaction in the first quarter of this year alone, dragging overall hospital satisfaction down 5 percent with it, notes Becker's Hospital Review.

Healthcare was the only industry besides energy in which ACSI results did not improve this quarter, reports the Wall Street Journal's Smart Money section. Despite being less affected by economic cycles than other businesses, year-over-year, the healthcare sector fell 1.9 percent.

According to Dr. John Santa, the director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, communication may be at the heart of hospitals' problems. "How a person experiences their care is an outcome all by itself," Santa says, and "good communication means it's less likely that errors are going to occur."

Despite some of hospitals' recent efforts to improve doctors' and nurses' communication with patients, and thus, satisfaction, persisting pain points include communication about new medications as well as coordination and instructions when patients are discharged, Santa, told the WSJ.

To learn more:
- read this Wall Street Journal SmartMoney article
- check out this Becker's Hospital Review piece
- read this ASCI commentary