Hospitals find few easy fixes for patient satisfaction scores


Hospitals have launched many initiatives to boost patient satisfaction, but many organizations still find the goal elusive, Kaiser Health News reports.

First introduced in 2007 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys have given consumers a chance to provide feedback on their care experience. In 2012, CMS began to use the surveys to help determine hospitals' reimbursements, the first major step in what is an ongoing transition from a fee-for-service model to a value-based one.

Hospitals' scores are available on the Hospital Compare website, but starting in April, CMS plans to pare down the survey results into five-star ratings for hospitals, according to the HCAHPS website. The American Hospital Association already has criticized the star-rating program, saying it could create an unfair disadvantage for some facilities, FierceHealthFinance reported.

Recent research also has questioned the link between high patient satisfaction scores and better health outcomes. Indeed, "sometimes what we see and hear from our patients doesn't show up on [the HCAHPS] surveys," Rowan Medical Center President Dari Caldwell, whose North Carolina hospital has some of the lowest levels of patient satisfaction in the country, told KHN.

This hasn't kept Rowan from a concerted effort to improve patients' experience, as Caldwell has reduced emergency department wait times by replacing the physician group that ran the ED, led an effort to improve doctors' and nurses' bedside manner, and taken steps to make the clinical environment more welcoming, according to the article. Recent research has been critical of expensive, hotel-inspired hospital renovations, however, noting they may not be the key to improving the patient experience, FierceHealthcare has reported.

Novant Health, a nonprofit hospital system that runs Rowan as well as 13 other hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, meanwhile, has tried to reap patient-experience lessons from Medical Park Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The surgery center has the highest patient satisfaction scores among the company's holdings, KHN reports. While one of Medical Park Hospital's main advantages may be its "mom-and-pop" feel, Novant has also implemented pre-surgical discussions and improved doctor-nurse relations at its other facilities based on the surgery center's example.

For most hospitals that participate in the HACHPS surveys, however, rankings haven't shown a large degree of variation over the years, Deirdre Mylod, an executive for Press Ganey, a company that conducts many of the surveys, told KHN.

"For the most part, the organizations that are doing really wonderfully now were doing well five years ago," she said.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read about the HCAHPS star-rating program