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What patient satisfaction tells us about hospital quality: Not much, apparently
January 12th, 2015
As a measure of hospital quality, patient satisfaction’s been on the ropes for a good while now. On this blog, Jill Drachenberg and I have both written about previous research that called into question whether patient satisfaction data has much to tell us about whether the clinical care patients actually receive is safe or effective.
Now, a new study from Risk Management and Insurance Review might have delivered the knockout punch. In it, researchers from Thomas Jefferson University basically found that patient outcomes tend to be better in busy hospitals with high caseloads and lots of beds. Hospitals like that don’t always have the best satisfaction scores. They tend to be noisier, for one thing, with lots of people bustling about. Meanwhile, a smaller, homier facility that doesn’t perform a high volume of procedures might have great satisfaction scores but rate lower when it comes to other measures of quality.
Now, I do think there are ways high-volume facilities could improve the patient experience, and there are now real monetary incentives for hospitals to do just that. But I think there’s also an opportunity for these facilities to educate potential patients not just about the amenities they offer but about the actual quality of the care they provide.
So far, clearly, they haven’t done a great job tooting their own horn. In a press release, the lead author, Robert D. Lieberthal, PhD, said, “Based on this study, the hospitals that have the best survival outcomes are not doing the best job of satisfying patients.” Or, apparently, getting the word out about what’s really important in a hospital stay.