Hospitals lose to doc's offices in consumer satisfaction

Patients are more satisfied with their healthcare than in the past, a new survey shows, but they're happier visiting their doctor than getting hospital-based care.

The monthly American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) measures customer satisfaction in a variety of business sectors, with scores based on a scale of 1 to 100, ACSI announced today.

Healthcare satisfaction rose 1.9 percent overall to a new benchmark of 80. ASCI credits improvements in the quality and delivery of care for the increase.

Satisfaction with ambulatory care--visits to doctors' offices, dentists, optometrists and mental-health professions--registered 82 percent, an improvement of 1.2 percent.

Satisfaction with hospital care--inpatient, outpatient and emergency services--ranked at 78, a significant margin below ambulatory care, according to ACSI. The good news: Satisfaction rose by 2.6 percent.

Hospitals rank high for outpatient care, with an benchmark number of 83, compared with 79 a year ago. Inpatient care remains the same at 80. But emergency department care is pulling down hospital scores, with a benchmark of only 70. Again, there's good news: That's up from 66 a year ago.

Hospital scores are forced down by dissatisfaction over the high cost of inpatient care, and the cost and wait times of emergency care, ACSI notes.

The ASCI survey is separate from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) program, which assesses patient satisfaction with hospital services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services can dock hospitals' Medicare reimbursements by up to 1 percent for performing poorly in satisfying patients.

The American Hospital Association recently asked CMS to drop plans to create two more types of patient surveys, one for outpatient survey departments and another for ambulatory surgical centers. In a letter to CMS, AHA said the additional surveys would confuse patients and create an unreasonable administrative burden for hospitals. Instead, they recommended adding questions to existing surveys.

Regardless of the type of survey, hospitals need to understand that "all actions taken by an organization ultimately influence patient perception," Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., executive director of The Beryl Institute, wrote in a Hospital Impact blog post.

First and foremost, patients feel vulnerable, heightening their senses and awareness of what is happening around them. Hospitals that recognize patient individuality and build systems to address the hospital culture and behaviors of people who engage with patients will see better results in terms of patient perspectives, he wrote.

To learn more:
- here's the ACSI announcement (scroll to bottom)
- check out the AHA letter
- read Wolf's blog post