Hospitals with unhappy patients still provide high-quality care

Patients who are unhappy with their hospitals won't necessarily experience poor outcomes, according to a study to be published in next week's issue of Risk Management and Insurance Review. Although patients may dislike a noisy hospital room or a nurse's responsiveness, or lack thereof, such factors represent busy urban hospitals--which have large caseloads and therefore better outcomes.

Adding to the growing body of evidence questioning the link between patient satisfaction and clinical quality, Thomas Jefferson University researchers used a hospital quality scoring method that found an unsatisfied patient at a high scoring hospital would survive his or her heart attack.

To determine hospital quality, the scoring method not only looked at patient satisfaction and medical outcomes but also included heavily-weighted patient mortality rates and the number of hospital beds, as more beds suggest higher caseloads and better outcomes.

"Patients who have chronic conditions like heart failure should go to large hospitals that treat a lot of other patients with heart failure," the study's lead author, Robert D. Lieberthal, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Jefferson School of Population Health in Philadelphia, said in a research announcement.

For hospitals with the best survival rates, the study showed they still have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to patient satisfaction.

And with previous research finding no link between patient satisfaction and quality outcomes, economists worry that high patient satisfaction scores for hotel-like amenities encourage hospitals to add unneeded costs to the nation's $2.7 trillion healthcare bill. 

To learn more:
- here's the research announcement
- check out the study abstract