Now that part of their pay is tied to patient satisfaction, hospitals are making it a priority, according to a recent survey. But many still devote few resources or senior leadership to improving patient experiences, one advocate said.
Dr. Jason Wolf, the president of The Beryl Institute, spoke Wednesday at the seventh annual Patient- and Family-Centered Care Conference hosted by Georgia Regents Health System. Because hospitals now have to report patient satisfaction scores on a federal survey and part of their reimbursement is tied to that, almost every hospital has said that patient- and family-centered care is important to them, Wolf said. Yet on his institute benchmarking report this year, “The State of Patient Experience,” the largest number handled this by a committee, with three or fewer people devoted to improving patient experiences.
“Saying it and doing it are two very different things, Wolf said. “If we believe finances are important for a health care system, we have a CFO. If we believe that human resources are important for a health care system, we have a chief human resources officer. If we believe that patients and families are important for a health care system, shouldn’t we have someone also that has an equal role in the strategy and direction of that entity?”
There are some encouraging signs, he said. Compared to its survey in 2011, this year the number of organizations that have a senior leader devoted to patient experiences or patient- and family-centered care doubled, Wolf said.
Some of this change will be driven by increasingly savvy consumers who are looking at patient satisfaction and quality scores, he said. A friend’s grandmother told Wolf that at her retirement community the seniors are sitting in the common room and “we’re Googling our doctors.”
The Medicare program is compiling patient satisfaction, quality and safety information on hospitals and making it available through its Hospital Compare Web site and people are using it, Wolf said, Part of this may be fueled by the Affordable Care Act as more and more people acquire insurance that they are paying for themselves and thus becoming more sensitive to price and quality in health care, he said.
“We’re at a place now in time, with the number of uninsured, even those that are insured, that are looking around for the best deal,” Wolf said. “We’re aware of premiums. We’re aware of what we pay to get care. I think what the next natural progression is, if I am paying somebody for that, I am also going to make sure that when I go to where I go, I am going to get the best quality as well.”
It also encourages providers who want to give patients good care leverage to be able to demand that from their organizations, he said.
“I think it is starting to change the nature of health care for the better for a lot of people,” Wolf said. “And I think it is reinvigorating and reigniting the passion that a lot of people had that brought them to this work in the first place.”