Patient satisfaction became a much more important issue earlier in 2008 when hospitals began reporting their performance on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. The 18-item survey was developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and is completed by patients to record their level of satisfaction with the hospital and the care they received.
If you don’t know your hospital’s publicly reported HCAHPS scores, you should make it your business to become familiar with them. Survey results from participating hospitals are updated periodically and available at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.
I regularly hear hospitalists say they could more effectively direct their energy and resources in ways consistent with their hospital CEO’s goals, if they only knew what those goals were. If you find yourself in the same category, then you should know there is a really good chance the upper-level hospital leadership has a salary bonus in place for achieving certain patient safety and satisfaction goals. A recent survey in the Journal of Patient Safety showed this is the case for more than half of the nation’s hospital executives.1 Therefore, learning more about your hospital’s patient satisfaction scores, and your group’s contribution to the score, is worth the effort.
The publicly reported HCAHPS data does not address hospitalists’ effect on patient satisfaction separately from other doctors and hospital attributes. As a result, some hospitalist groups conduct their own survey. This may range from a very brief series of written questions, or a more-involved survey administered via phone. Since it is difficult to drill down to patient satisfaction with individual hospitalists, data from these surveys often times are collected for the entire hospitalist practice in aggregate, rather than by the individual doctor.
Investigate both internal and external resources, if you believe your group could benefit from an intervention (e.g., education or training to improve patient satisfaction). Many hospitals have someone on staff to provide employee training in this area; the trainer probably would be impressed and pleased if you initiate contact to learn more about available training. Resources external to your hospital include survey companies (e.g., Press Ganey, NCR Picker, among others). These companies can provide training and guidance, or put you in contact with firms with whom they work. I have seen something as simple as a one- or two-hour online or DVD course be a valuable tool for some practices.