Survey: Consumer satisfaction with hospitals takes a dip while payer score climbs

Consumer satisfaction with hospitals took a tumble this year while approval of health insurers improved, a new survey shows. 

The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released its annual report examining the financial and insurance sectors and found that hospitals earned a score of 72 on their indicator, which is based on a survey of more than 30,000 consumers and reflects their perceptions of the quality of products they use. 

That’s a notable drop from hospitals’ 2018 score on the index, which was 76. The decline, according to the report, is driven by a substantial drop in consumers’ rankings for emergency department care, which decreased from a 73 score in 2018 to a 67 for 2019. 

That decline, according to the survey, erodes gains made over the past two years in satisfaction. Inpatient care, by comparison, declined only slightly, from a 77 to a 76 score. 

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By contrast, patient satisfaction with outpatient care settings continues to climb—ambulatory care earned a 77 score for the second year in a row. Outpatient care provided by hospitals earned a lower score, a 75, which dropped from a 78 score in 2018. 

“As more hospital care shifts from inpatient to outpatient settings, hospitals overall suffer in customer satisfaction,” the researchers wrote. 

The report flags the wait times in the emergency department as a key factor in declining patient satisfaction with emergency care. 

Hospitals’ declining score puts them near the bottom of the list of industries that ACSI rates, according to the report. It beats out unpopular industries such as cable and internet providers but lags behind others such as banking (80), cars (79) and hotels (75). 

Humana tops list for satisfaction among health plans 

The health insurance sector overall saw its score on the index increase to a 74, up slightly from a 73 in 2018 and beating out hospitals in the report. This is the highest score health insurers have earned in a decade, ACSI said. 

The highest-ranking health plan among consumers was Humana, which earned a score of 79. Just behind was Kaiser Permanente, which earned a 77, and Aetna, which earned a 76. That’s Aetna’s highest score ever, according to the report. 

“One year ago, Humana and Kaiser Permanente were tied for the industry lead, but small changes put Humana ahead in 2019,” the researchers said. 

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UnitedHealthcare earned a score of 75, while Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans fell short of the sector average with scores of 72 and 71, respectively. Consumers rank BCBS plans the worst for prescription drug coverage, according to the report, while Cigna is dinged by members for the quality of its mobile app. 

Consumer experience scores for certain elements of the health plan experience remained on par with 2018 or increased slightly, according to the report. For example, consumers ranked mobile apps overall highly for quality and reliability. 

Two areas of concern in the report are the call center experience and access to primary care. Plan members frequently rank insurers’ call centers as the worst part of their interaction with their plans, particularly as the industry goes increasingly digital. 

Scores for access to primary care physicians declined slightly for 2019, according to the report, from a score of 80 to 79, making it the only element of the member experience to decline in 2019.