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Hospitals found lacking in patient satisfaction efforts

A study involving four countries shows a gap in how clinicians and hospital management view the patient experience.

By Damon Adams — Posted March 27, 2013

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Health care professionals say hospital managers are not doing enough to improve patient satisfaction at hospitals.

A survey of 1,004 physicians and nurses in four countries found that 90.4% said improving satisfaction of patients during hospitalization was achievable. But only 9.2% said their department had a structured plan to boost patient satisfaction, said the study in the March issue of BMJ Quality and Safety (link).

“It seems that, despite the fact that hospital management espouses the importance of patient-centered care and invests in patient surveys, the majority of hospitals do not appear to have a structured plan to promote improvement of patient satisfaction nor engagement of clinicians in the process,” the study’s authors concluded.

The survey involved 468 physicians and 536 nurses at four academic hospitals — one each in the United States, Denmark, Israel and the United Kingdom. Researchers found that 85.5% believed that hospital management should take a more active role in conducting patient satisfaction improvement programs. Overall, 83.6% said achieving high levels of patient satisfaction was important for the clinical success of health care organizations.

But just 38% recalled specific actions undertaken by their departments to improve satisfaction. Only 34% said they received feedback during the past year on patient satisfaction from hospital management.

“What is the value of the [patient satisfaction] survey if there is no feedback mechanism that is filtering down to the nurses and physicians?” asked lead study author Ronen Rozenblum, PhD, MPH. He is director of the Unit for Innovative Healthcare Practice & Technology at the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Rozenblum noted that the Institute of Medicine’s 2001 report Crossing the Quality Chasm called for boosting patient-centered care. He said the study’s findings raise concerns about whether hospital management is engaging health care professionals to improve satisfaction among patients.

Satisfaction pays at hospitals

Medicare is taking notice of what patients think. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in October 2012 began withholding 1% in pay to hospitals and providing incentives to hospitals with the highest-performance-measure scores, which include patient-satisfaction metrics.

The study by Rozenblum and his colleagues said there seems to be more emphasis among health care organizations on measuring patient satisfaction rather than on improving the patient experience. The researchers said policymakers should consider strategies to reward organizations that improve the experience for patients.

The study said hospital management could incorporate patient-centered care as a priority and implement structured plans that engage doctors and nurses in upgrading the patient experience.

“Hospitals have to really increase awareness of the patient experience,” Rozenblum said. “We have to look at quality of care from the patient perspective.”

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