Patients Are Happier With Their Hospitals, Physicians

Patients are giving upbeat responses to hospital satisfaction surveys, according to an analysis from HealthGrades,  an independent healthcare ratings organization that provides reports and ratings to guide patients to better care providers.  Generally positive responses to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey are increasing at a rate of roughly 1.6 percent a year.

The survey measured multiple hospital care topics,  including communication with clinicians, cleanliness and pain management.  HealthGrades analyzed patient satisfaction data from April 2009 to March 2010 – provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — and covering nearly 3,800 U.S. hospitals.  Several HCAHPS measures drew better responses than others.  For example, although 81 percent of patients expressed satisfaction with hospital discharge information, only 58 percent said they were satisfied with the way their physician communicated with them about medications.  Patients were the least satisfied with the level of quiet in their rooms.

“It’s clear that patients are driving higher quality in our nation’s hospitals,”  said Dr. Rick May, HealthGrades Vice President of clinical quality programs.  “Hospitals take HCAHPS survey results very seriously and invest time and resources to ensure each patient’s experience is the best possible.  This is yet another example of how transparency in health care drives quality.”

When compared to hospitals performing in the bottom 10 percent for patient satisfaction, HealthGrades Award recipient hospitals are attributed with the following:

  • 45% more patients gave the hospital an overall rating of a nine or a 10 (10 being the highest possible).
  • 34% more patients responded that they always received help from staff quickly.
  • 24% more patients reported that the staff always explained their medications to them prior to administering them.
  • 19% more patients felt their pain was always well controlled.
  • 45% more patients reported that they would definitely recommend the hospital to their family or friends.

Patients in the West North Central states expressed the most positive experience with their hospital stay followed by patients in the East South Central.  Patients in the Mid-Atlantic region were least satisfied with their hospital stays.  To be included in the analysis, hospitals must have met minimum thresholds in terms of patient volumes, quality ratings, and the range of services provided.  Individuals may compare their local hospitals online at  HealthGrades hospital ratings are independently created; no hospital can opt in or opt out of being rated, and no hospital pays to be rated.

Another possible reason for increased satisfaction could be the presence of WiFi hotspots in hospitals, which makes it possible for patients who feel well enough to use their computers.  “Offering WiFi and other high-end amenities confirms that the patient is ‘top of the mind’ and serves as an assurance of excellent customer service,” according to Nancy Hyman, founder of Ortho Referral Systems, a Montibello, CA- based consulting firm.

Acute-care facilities are leading the way in providing WiFi to patients and visitors, according to Gerard Festa, director of healthcare solutions for Aruba Networks Inc., a Sunnyvale, CA-based company.  According to Festa, hospitals provided WiFi access earlier than individual practices and clinics because they had dedicated IT staffs to work through any technology challenges.  Healthcare facilities offered WiFi in an attempt to improve patient satisfaction.   “When we asked hospitals about the impact WiFi had on their patient satisfaction, every single one said they saw an uptick in their patient satisfaction scores that could be attributed directly to the new technology,” Festa said.  “Offering WiFi is really all about serving the customers’ interest and making them feel that we know their time is valuable.”

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