Many practices survey patients about their care experience, but a growing number of initiatives now make survey data public as a means of allowing health consumers to make comparisons.
Massachusetts physicians were among the first to engage in this movement, with Consumer Reports publishing ratings for 329 adult primary care practices and 158 pediatric practices throughout the state in 2012. Under that experiment, some practices learned for the first time of problem areas. For example, Judith Rapoza, practice administrator of Pediatric Associates of Fall River, said that it was "enlightening" to learn her practice scored only a 2 out of a perfect score of 4 in office staff courtesy and respect, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.
More recently, the Maine Quality Council released patient ratings of their experiences with 267 primary care and specialty care practices in the state. Practice participation was voluntary. The results, published on the new website mainepatientexperiencematters.org, are based on responses to the same nationally recognized survey from more than 38,563 adults and 1,839 parents gathered during a four-month period in late 2012-early 2013, according to an announcement.
"Although findings vary by practice site, survey results indicate that a high percentage of patients in Maine give their provider practices top scores for communication, helpful and courteous office staff, and talking about medications," the announcement said. "Survey findings also identified areas where there is room for improvement, such as wait times for appointments, attention to mental health needs and access to after hours care."
While some experts argue that patient surveys don't accurately reflect the quality of care patients receive, noted a post in Maine's Vital Signs blog, officials commended the practices' voluntary participation. "Publicly sharing this information helps patients know what they should expect from their providers and help practices learn what they need to do to improve results," stated Robert Keller, M.D., chairman of the Maine Quality Forum Advisory Council.