Patient satisfaction has become an indicator of how well a provider performs and it has become a dimension of value-based health care since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While patient satisfaction is defined in a number of ways, it is usually publicly reported so that patients have the information they need to choose a health care provider that is right for them.
In other words, patient satisfaction can be a determining factor in how much revenue you bring in. To ensure patient satisfaction, consultants are frequently brought in to practices to evaluate satisfaction through patient surveys and provide monthly reports on how well physicians are performing in this area. If patients are happy, then they will remain with the provider and refer others. If they are not happy, they may leave and tell others of their poor experience. It does not take long for word to travel that a physician didn’t perform well.
Patient Satisfaction and Medicare
But patient satisfaction doesn’t stop at whether or not people are going to hear the right things about a provider. In 2012, satisfaction took on greater importance because of its impact on Medicare reimbursement. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, or HCAHPS, measures how satisfied patients are based on their own perspectives and uses that information when determining reimbursement. Patients answer questions on patient surveys in regards to communication with nurses and doctors, pain management, responsiveness of the staff, if details about medicines were properly communicated, and how quiet the hospital environment was. The amount of money at risk per hospital totals up to $850,000 per year, so there is a lot riding on the perceptions of patients.
The Costs and Benefits of Patient Satisfaction
There are plenty of benefits to ensuring that patients are satisfied. A satisfied patient is more likely to stick with their prescribed treatment, maintain an ongoing relationship with the doctor, and realize the positive health outcome. Providers’ interests are also catered to because their reputations increase within the community. This means fewer malpractice claims and a more satisfied staff.
The irony in this, however, is that satisfied patients may not always receive the best care. As a matter of fact, they may receive more care and that can create a greater expense for poor quality. One survey of 52,000 individuals showed that their satisfaction was tied to fewer ER visits, but greater inpatient visits. The prescription drug and health care expenditures were higher and there were more deaths.
The increased patient volume can result in greater revenues. However, it was found by Press Ganey that hospitals can also capitalize on patient satisfaction by simply working toward an increase in patient satisfaction. Individual practices can benefit as well.
Patient Satisfaction and Perspective
Patient satisfaction is personal and it is multi-dimensional. It is right at the middle of patient-centered care. Research has shown time and time again that how an individual perceives and experiences health care is determined by their health status, income, and ethnicity. Studies have shown that younger patients tend to be dissatisfied where older patients are satisfied. Patients with higher income and education and those that are sicker are usually more satisfied than those that consider themselves less than well off. Regional differences and hospital size are also factors. These are all elements that have to be taken into consideration when generating reports based on patient surveys. The information can then be used to increase patient satisfaction.
Nonetheless, many questions have come about from these variances regarding whether or not it is fair for providers to be rewarded based on the satisfaction of patients and penalize them when patients are not satisfied. This has concerned many hospitals and providers, especially those serving needy patients.
What has been found is that patients enjoy engagement by their doctors. It is not enough for the patients to be simply satisfied with their health care, but the experience as a whole is very important. At the end of the day, what is important is that the care is patient-centered and meets the needs of the patient. Engagement means getting involved in care, opening the door to healthier lifestyles, and understanding what the patient is going through. When physicians do more than just walk in a room, read notes, make a diagnosis, and leave, patients notice and they will be more satisfied.
Patient satisfaction is very important and it is never too late to increase that satisfaction. MD Pro Solutions can help by evaluating what is occurring in the practice and creating monthly reports so that you know what is happening without increasing the burden on you. To learn more, contact us at 508-976-1665 or fill out our contact form and someone from our office will contact you.