Would you rather have a really great experience at the hospital (but not end up getting better and having to return)….or would you rather have less pleasant of a stay (but actually recover properly)?
This is the problem that’s occurring when our healthcare reform documentation focuses more on a “yelp review” than actual health improvements. Just because a hospital receives good satisfaction scores from patients does not mean they’re treating their guests well. And adversely, just because customers complain doesn’t mean they’re receiving bad healthcare.
Government mandated regulations have made it so that a good chunk (about 30%) of medicare reimbursement hospitals give back depend on the scores given to patients based on their satisfaction reports. So essentially, healthcare practitioners performance isn’t results driven but instead based on how happy they’re making their patients.
The Affordable Care Act started using a policy in 2012 that would withhold 1% of Medicare reimbursements. And, the only hospitals that will gain it back again are the ones with the high satisfaction scores from patients. The absolute best performers even receive money that comes from that annual money pool. Worse yet, in 2017, that money withheld will double. The incentive for patients to report good experiences (like if they liked the food or if they had valet parking) could cause for raises in doctor and nurse salary when it really should be the places with the less return visitors, less deaths, more recoveries, etc. that get the reward.
Hospitals Going the Extra (Unnecessary) Mile
Hospitals have been so concerned about satisfaction reports and reimbursements that they’ve been pushing nurses to have totally unmedical-related training and extra time scripting patient interactions, instead of perfecting actual medical practices. Also, hospitals are trying to offer newer TVs, better food, live music, and even VIP lounges to make their facilities appear more satisfactory.
But, when so much effort is put into making patients feel like they’re checking out of a 5-star hotel and not an ICU, patients are paying the ultimate price with their health. It seems
I’m not saying ensuring the patients report good experiences means that they’re not receiving excellent care and it’s not the idea of these surveys that is bad. It’s actually really important we are worried about the comfort of our hospital’s patients. However, these surveys can be so misleading that the complaints are all over the board. And also, when we’re throwing so much money and energy into superfluous things, we aren’t able to put the same effort into healing our hospital’s guests.
As a Missouri clinical instructor told the Atlantic, “Patients can be very satisfied and dead an hour later. Sometimes hearing bad news is not going to result in a satisfied patient, yet the patient could be a well-informed, prepared patient.”
Customer Patient is Always Right”
Amy Bozeman brought up a really great point in a Scrubs magazine article. She said that by treating patients like customers and relying on our health practitioners to be working as “customer service representatives” instead of doctors and nurses, it makes spoiling our patients a mistake that can backfire on us.
“The patient is NOT always right. They just don’t have the knowledge and training.”
Instead of worrying about having happier patients, let’s make sure we’re putting their recovery and health first.