Hospitals struggle to bring up their patient satisfaction scores

Facilities with improved scores tended to be ahead of the pack already

While federal surveys show that U.S. hospitals on the whole have made gains in patient satisfaction scores, hundreds of hospitals across the country have stagnated, Kaiser Health News' Jordan Rau reports.

Further, the federal government in April will begin using the survey results when judging hospitals for its new five-star rating process. According to KHN, federal officials hope the system will help consumers to better understand data on Medicare's Hospital Compare website.

Medicare to pick 'five-star' hospitals

Some hospitals have tough time improving scores

Some hospitals have made significant headway in patient satisfaction scores, according to KHN.

For example, the University of Missouri Health System implemented a live simulation center to help physicians learn how to better communicate with patients. The system in 2013, the most recent year for which federal data are available, saw a 10-percentage-point increase, to 78%, in the proportion of patients who reported that its physicians communicated well. The health system also saw bumps in other patient satisfaction scores.

However, many of the hospitals with higher scores already had high scores in the past. Deirdre Mylod—an executive at Press Ganey, which conducts patient satisfaction surveys for many hospitals—said, "The high performers tend to continue to be the high performers and the low performers tend to be low performers."

Meanwhile, many hospitals continue to struggle with patient satisfaction.

For example, Rowan Medical Center is expected to miss out on $29,000 this year as a result. While the hospital has made changes, such as replacing physician management groups and ensuring that nurses spend more time with patients, Rowan executives think the scores might not be improving because patients remember previous poor experiences at the facility. Dari Caldwell, Rowan's president, said, "Sometimes what we see and hear from our patients doesn't show up on their surveys" (Rau, Kaiser Health News, 3/10).

The takeaway: Many of the hospitals that have improved their patient experience scores were already ahead of the pack, while lagging hospitals are struggling to convert changes at the hospital into score improvements .

Five patient experience stories you won't want to miss

Sharing patient stories can be a simple, yet powerful way to cultivate caregiver empathy.

Watch now to hear Melissa Thomason, a patient and family advisor at Vidant Health, as she shares her life-changing experience. And check out four other videos on outstanding patient experience initiatives, including one that helped UCLA achieve a 60% increase in satisfaction scores.

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