Satisfaction-centered model proves hard sell for docs

doctor

While many industries, such as the hotel and restaurant business, have embraced the idea of customer satisfaction, it’s been a hard sell among physicians, writes Paul Rosen, M.D., in a blog post on NEJM Catalyst.

When it comes to patient satisfaction, “the mere mention of this term can induce a feeling of intense anger—‘I am a physician, not a barista asking for your order,’” writes Rosen, associate professor of pediatrics and faculty mentor for physician executive leadership at Thomas Jefferson University.

But Rosen argues there is common ground between the perspectives of patients and physicians. Patients also value a correct diagnosis and a proper treatment plan based on their doctor’s medical knowledge, he says. But they also value how their doctor treats them and the ideal patient-physician encounter merges both. One recent study showed that physician empathy is the biggest factor in patient satisfaction.

Physicians have concerns with surveys that measure their performance, Rosen says. For instance, can a patient with no medical background really judge medical quality? Another worry is that under pressure to make patients happy, physicians might therefore prescribe an antibiotic for a viral infection or order a test that isn’t necessary.

Ultimately, however, those surveys, satisfaction scores and rankings serve a purpose, he argues, providing patients with information about doctors and hospitals that can literally be a life-or-death decision.  “I believe the chief motive for healthcare to join the transparency movement should not be to raise scores but to help patients make important decisions. We must acknowledge that medicine is at once a vocation, a profession, and a service,” he says.

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