Hospitals with best patient satisfaction to draw in reimbursements

Love it or hate it, more hospitals are taking note of patient satisfaction with reimbursements on the line. Starting next year, Medicare will examine patient satisfaction scores when reimbursing hospitals, and better performing hospitals will win out on the incentive.

However, that leaves some hospitals concerned that their reimbursements will crumble under the new patient satisfaction considerations, reports Kaiser Health News and The New York Times. Hospitals that either can't afford luxury amenities or simply hospitals--including the leading ones--who already receive low scores might not appreciate the somewhat subjective ratings.

"Hospitals are going be punished financially by the federal government for things they can't control," said Dr. James Merlino, chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic.

Effective October 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will withhold 1 percent of regular reimbursements based on performance, an estimated $850 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. Patient experience makes up for 30 percent of the total bonus payments.

Available on the governmental Hospital Compare website, ratings include patient survey questions, such as the following: Did the doctors and nurses communicate well? Was pain well controlled? Was the room clean and the hospital quiet at night? Only hospitals that receive a grade of 9 or 10 (out of a 10-point scale) will count for Medicare credit, according to the Kaiser-NYT article.

So far, the Hospital Compare data show that only 67 percent of patients gave their hospitals the top two ratings, according to the WSJ. Only 58 percent reported quiet environments, and 60 percent said their physicians and nurses always communicated well about medications.

Others, however, see value in the survey questions. "It's not just a feel-good kind of a thing," Jean Moody-Williams, director of the quality improvement group at CMS, said in the Kaiser-NYT article. Asking whether a patient received proper discharge instructions points to quality-of-care issues, not simply patient experience, she said.

For more information:
- read the Kaiser-NYT article
- read the WSJ article
- check out the table on hospital patient satisfaction by region

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