May 9th, 2014
Patient satisfaction is at the core of patient centered medicine. Improved patient satisfaction not only leads to an enhanced patient experience—something every sick or injured patient deserves—it is also associated with improved treatment outcomes. In 2008, researchers demonstrated that improved patient satisfaction was correlated with higher quality hospital care “for all…conditions measured.” More recent work has begun to identify exactly how this correlation works. For example, higher patient satisfaction has been associated with reduced readmission rates. Furthermore, improved patient satisfaction has even been correlated with reduced inpatient mortality, “suggesting that patients are good discriminators of the type of care they receive.”
Despite the correlation between higher patient satisfaction rates and improved outcomes, measurement of patient satisfaction remains controversial among many health care providers. Physicians, in particular, often chafe when organizations, such as The Commonwealth Fund through their site WhyNotTheBest, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services though their Physician Compare website, begin to publicly report doctors’ patient satisfaction data. Additionally, employed physicians often fret when patient satisfaction is included in their reimbursement metrics.
Certainly there are instances in which sound medicine may lead to a lower rate of patient satisfaction; infrequently, satisfaction can correlate, not with high quality care, but with the fulfillment of patients’ a priori wishes for their treatment. A good example of this problem is the difficulty in refusing to fill narcotics prescriptions and steering a patient toward alternative pain relief modalities when the physician has good evidence that a patient has a problem with narcotics abuse. While the doctor in this example is practicing good medicine, it is highly unlikely that the patient will leave the office anything other than deeply disappointed.
Despite these relatively rare cases, many studies show a deep chasm between how patients and doctors view medical care, and thus demonstrate the need to measure patient satisfaction rates. Patients and their doctors can view the same episodes of care quite differently so, without patient satisfaction measures, we are left with an incomplete or even misleading picture of patient care.Read the rest of this entry »