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Should Medicare Pay Hospitals based on Patient Satisfaction?

05/02/2013

In October 2012, as part of the new health care law, Medicare began associating some of  hospitals’ payments to patient satisfaction rankings. Hospitals can now receive bonuses if their patients give them a positive review. Clean rooms and attentive nurses now contribute to  the bottom line, so hospitals are making big investments in order to make their patients happier. However, a new study conducted by a team of Johns Hopkins University researchers suggests  there is little relationship between patient satisfaction and the quality of care they receive.   They looked at how 31 large hospitals scored on patient satisfaction and compared that to how well these same institutions scored on safety measures.  They found that high scores on patient satisfaction were “not associated with hospital compliance with process-of-care measures.”  In short, hospitals could make a patient happy, but there was no correlation to safety metrics. Click here to read more about the research and studies conducted in a blog posted by the Washington Post.

The authors go on to say in  JAMA Surgery  , “We applaud the introduction of patient satisfaction as a metric of health care, recognizing that satisfaction measures the important customer service component of a patient’s experience. However, the use of patient satisfaction as a comprehensive measure of quality to determine hospital reimbursement must be questioned in the absence of other reliable outcome metrics.”

Given the new research, should patient satisfaction be thought of as a metric hospitals get paid for? What about the patients who rate their hospital trip highly, even when it didn’t result in better care? Comment and let us know your thoughts.

 

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