Healthcare News & Insights

How to boost patient satisfaction scores

In October, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin reimbursing hospitals based on patient satisfaction ratings as part of its value-based purchasing program. A new study tells hospitals where to focus their efforts so they don’t miss out on that money.

The 2012 National Patient Experience Study by J.D. Power and Associates found that “superior interpersonal skills” matter more than cutting-edge technology and shiny new buildings when it comes to patient satisfaction.

Good news for hospitals that can’t afford these upgrades.

J.D. Power surveyed more than 10,000 patients who’d received inpatient, emergency or outpatient care in facilities in the U.S. Some key findings include:

  • The inpatient hospital setting accounts for 19% of patients’ overall satisfaction, yet interactions with doctors and nurses account for 34% of the overall experience ratings for inpatients. In emergency settings, doctors and nurses are even more of a factor at 43%. And for outpatients, it’s 50%.
  • For inpatients, 35% of the overall patient experience was predicted by the admission and discharge process.
  • Patients who said they experienced a problem with their room or their caregivers rated their overall experience a 5.3 on a 10-point scale. Patients who reported smooth sailing rated their overall experience an 8.7.
  • “Staff service and staff attitude” were the most common types of problems experienced.

Positive patient experience

Giving doctors and nurses the support they need to provide patients with positive experiences will do more to boost patient satisfaction scores than spending money on making their facilities look and feel like high-end luxury hotels, say the study’s authors.

They suggest:

  • treating problems as “opportunities to demonstrate a genuine interest in patient’s needs”
  • “getting a patient into a room quickly at the start of their hospital stay, and ensuring a smooth process during discharge, along with a follow-up call once the patient gets home to make sure they’re doing okay,” and
  • investing resources in “finding and keeping staff with superior interpersonal skills.”

In the debate leading up to the new reimbursement requirements, some doctors have raised concerns that tying patient satisfaction scores to reimbursement will actually hurt patients, not help them. They equate patient satisfaction with giving in to patients’ requests for more prescription drugs and unnecessary tests.

However, the results of this study may ease their fears by providing them with ideas for satisfying patients in a way that doesn’t require them to look like the bad guy, such as spending more time with them to discuss their treatment.

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