Measuring patient satisfaction by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores is a topic of considerable discussion. But now that patient satisfaction scores have become the “universal yardstick” for determining 30 percent of the federal financial incentive program, HCAHPS and patient satisfaction scores have serious financial weight with hospitals.
What’s more, the pay-for-performance/patient satisfaction concept also extends to insurance plans, private practice providers and other aspects of the nation’s healthcare delivery structure.
Although the CMS/HCAHPS bonus arrangement is new—as of October 2012— the fact is that patient satisfaction and delivering a positive patient experience has, for many facilities, medical practices and doctors, been a best practices concern for many years.
Having worked closely with hospitals and providers throughout the United States for many years, we’ve compiled the following list of reasons to care about patient satisfaction. The list is not exhaustive, but doctors, hospital executives, facility managers and academic studies tell us:
- Better outcomes are likely. Positive patient experience results in more diligent patient compliance and adherence. Patients are more accepting of recommendations follow treatment plans and/or adopt healthier lifestyles.
- Consumer Reports, medical systems, insurance companies, state regulatory agencies (as well as dozens of online physician rating sites), regularly publish ranking/rating information for consumers. Ratings primarily are primarily a reflection of the patient experience.
- It is about ten times more costly to acquire a new customer/patient than it does to retain an existing patient.
- Most patients—over 60 percent—define patient experience in a hospital by how well they were treated as a person (more so than the medical treatment itself).
- Patient experience influences professional referrals. Low satisfaction—even informal negative comments—can cause referring providers to refer patients to others where satisfaction is higher.
- Patient Satisfaction can avoid litigation. Patients who are pleased with and like their provider are less inclined sue.
- Personal and professional satisfaction and gratification is higher for providers and staff.
- Practice employees—physicians, clinical staff and business staff—are happier with their jobs and their work environment. They are more efficient in their work, and more likely to stay (lowering costs for recruiting, hiring and training.)
- Satisfied patients are more likely to refer friends and family.
- Satisfied patients take themselves out of the market. They remain bonded to the practice, facility or provider they like. They are more likely to return and less likely to “shop” for another or competitive resource in the future.
- Word-of-Mouth has influence. Negative comments about patient care are more influential than hearing about a treatment accident. (Ten percent more patients are likely to change their choice of hospital.)
- Patient complaints and callbacks to the office are fewer. Office culture and productivity are improved.
- People prize quality service and look for higher value. The nation’s soft economy has produced more conservative purchasing decisions. They select providers where patient satisfaction is high.
- Baby Boomers—healthcare’s largest consumer slice—value “the experience” as much as they prize the service or the outcome.
- Professional reputation is enhanced.
In short, patient satisfaction is not only good business, it is a reflection of professional success that benefits the patient, the community, the organization and the entire provider team of professionals.