Poor patient satisfaction: The easiest thing to fix

Despite skeptics of the pay-for-performance movement, one hospital CEO says patient satisfaction is not only in hospitals' control, but one of the easier things to fix.

In his first few months on the job, newly inducted Clinton (Ohio) Memorial Hospital CEO Mark Dooley said conversations with patients revealed when they are dissatisfied, not with clinical quality, but rather response time to answering a call light or length of time it took to get food or nurses not being able to find an extra pillow, the (Clinton County, Ohio) News Journal reported.

"You call them small things, but I call them easy things. There's no reason they shouldn't be fixed," Dooley said. "I know there's some image rebuilding we need to do. We have to take care of those needs, do the right things, treat patients the right way."

Dooley's sentiments echo an earlier study by J.D. Power and Associates, which found that better patient satisfaction doesn't come from fancy equipment or facility upgrades, but rather interactions with staff. Doctors and nurses account for a third (34 percent) of the overall experience ratings for inpatients, 50 percent for outpatients and 43 percent for emergency patients, according to the September report.

University of Utah Health Care is taking patient satisfaction so serious that the health system is posting unfiltered comments--many of which are focused on staff interaction--on its website. University of Utah Health Care says it's the first in the nation to post patients' satisfaction scores and comments about the physicians, Desert News reported.

The 20-question survey uses Press Ganey methodology and asks patients about providers' friendliness, explanations of conditions, shared decision-making, follow-up instructions and time spent together, among other metrics.

"We know that patients expect transparency," Chris Nelson, vice president of public affairs for University of Utah Health Care, told the news outlet. "So if you say something bad about our doctors--as long as it's not libelous or slanderous--it stays on there."

According to the website, 99.5 percent of all the comments received last year were posted unedited.

Although other review sites allow users to post reviews of their providers online, patients may wonder if there are really patients behind those reviews. According to the health system, patients can rest assured knowing that it receives comments from about 50,000 patients each year.

Medicare also posts comparative data on hospitals online, focused on clinical measures, such as readmissions, complications and death rates. Hospital Compare quietly moved its data to a new URL last week, now at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare.com, according to the HCAHPS website.

For more information:
- read the News Journal article
- here's the Desert News article
- visit the HCAHPS website and the Hospital Compare website

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