In the past several years, conflicting studies have emerged involving the relationship between patient satisfaction and quality healthcare. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 asked,
“Do patients’ reports of their health care experiences reflect the quality of care? . . . These views are fueled by studies indicating that patient-experience measures at best have no relation to the quality of delivered care and at worst are associated with poorer patient outcomes. Conversely, other studies have found that better patient experiences — even more than adherence to clinical guidelines — are associated with better outcomes. Which conclusion is correct? We believe that when designed and administered appropriately, patient-experience surveys provide robust measures of quality, and our efforts to assess patient experiences should be redoubled.”(1)
The study concluded that patient experience surveys properly measured quality of care, as long as the surveys were given properly, and that even more effort should be put into patient satisfaction.
Patient satisfaction is something every health care provider should strive for regardless of the medical outcome, because ultimately health care is a business like any other. As Bhanu Prakash wrote in 2010, “Today the patient sees himself as a buyer of health services. Once this concept is accepted, then there is a need to recognize that every patient has certain rights, which puts a special emphasis on to the delivery of quality health care.”(2) Objectively speaking, it is important for any business to have satisfied customers in order to ensure the longevity of their company, so patients need to be happy if they’re going to continue giving you their business.
People are generally happier when they feel like they’re receiving good service. “Patient satisfaction is an important and commonly used indicator for measuring the quality in health care. Patient satisfaction affects clinical outcomes, patient retention, and medical malpractice claims. It affects the timely, efficient, and patient-centered delivery of quality health care.”(2) Patient satisfaction extends far beyond a single interaction with a health care provider: it affects how closely the patient follows aftercare instructions, whether or not they will return when other health needs arise, and if they decide to sue for malpractice.
The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) notes additional financial costs associated with patient satisfaction. “Satisfied patients will share their positive experience with five others, on average, and dissatisfied patients complain to nine (or more) other people.”(3) If a patient has a good experience, a facility can benefit from free word-of-mouth marketing. Unfortunately, unhappy patients will talk about their bad experience to twice as many people as the happy ones typically do, making it far more expensive to have unhappy patients. AAAHC also adds that “[b]ecause the cost of obtaining a patient is high, losing a patient is a substantial loss of investment.”(3) Considering the costs of what it takes to get a patient in the door of your facility, it is much cheaper to make sure that patient keeps coming back instead of trying to draw in another patient.
“With patient satisfaction scores now having a direct impact on the bottom line, the measure and management of patient satisfaction has become a top priority at health systems across the country.”(4) Negative patient reviews affect not only the patient and their friends/family, but they now affect Medicare payments, leading to an additional source of lost revenue.
There also appears to be a correlation between patient satisfaction scores and the profitability of a health care facility. “Based on data from 3,035 U.S. acute-care hospitals, 25% of hospitals with the highest HCAHPS scores were also the most profitable. . . In fact, only the hospitals in the top quartile for patient ratings showed a positive profit margin.” Happier patients = a better bottom line!
The NTEC Difference
North Texas Endoscopy Centers are proud that their patient satisfaction scores are consistently 10-20% higher on average than hospitals when asked similar questions. For the 4th quarter of 2016, NTEC centers had an average of 89.3% of respondents say that they definitely would recommend the facility(5). However, only an average of 75% of respondents said the same about Texas hospitals during the same time period, and the national hospital average over the 4th quarter of 2016 was even lower at only 72%(6).
1) Matthew P. Manary, M.S.E., William Boulding, Ph.D., Richard Staelin, Ph.D., and Seth W. Glickman, M.D., M.B.A. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:201-203January 17, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1211775
2) Patient Satisfaction by Bhanu Prakash. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. 2010 Sep-Dec; 3(3): 151-155.
3) AAAHC Connection newsletter May 2015. Institute Quality Improvement Insights 2015
4) The Rising Importance of Patient Satisfaction in a Value-Based Environment. API healthcare. 2015
5) Press Ganey website www.pressganey.com/
6) Medicare.gov hospital compare website