Gap Widens in Hospital Patient Satisfaction; Hospitals Committed to Service Excellence Improve While Nationally, Satisfaction Declines


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The gap in patient satisfaction is widening between hospitals that deliver exemplary patient service and those that provide lower levels of care. Press Ganey Associates Inc., which measures healthcare satisfaction across thousands of healthcare delivery organizations, captured the disquieting trend in its 2006 Health Care Satisfaction Report, which includes data from more than 2.2 million patients who had inpatient stays at nearly 1,600 U.S. hospitals.

According to Press Ganey data, hospitals, emergency departments, physicians' offices and other healthcare facilities have shown significant improvement over the past several years, directly opposite the trends in healthcare at large. The hospitals with the greatest commitment to improvement averaged a 2.7 mean score increase over the past year despite the national decline in healthcare satisfaction.

"The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) from the University of Michigan has shown that consumers' satisfaction with healthcare has decreased significantly over the past several years," says Melvin F. Hall, PhD, president and chief executive officer of Press Ganey. "Hospitals that partner with Press Ganey to continually measure and improve patient satisfaction challenge that trend."

Press Ganey data confirms what many healthcare policy experts have been saying about healthcare -- the landscape presents a lot of mediocrity with pockets of excellence and very poor care. Patients receiving care at healthcare facilities in the upper 90th percentile of Press Ganey's database almost never report "very poor" or "poor" care while patients at healthcare facilities in the 10th percentile report "very poor" or "poor" care with far greater frequency.

Press Ganey's second annual Health Care Satisfaction Report measures key data on the drivers of patient, resident, physician and employee satisfaction across a myriad of healthcare delivery organizations -- hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and medical practices, among others. In addition to the inpatient data, the 2006 Health Care Satisfaction Report covers more than 1.8 million patients of outpatient clinics as well as more than 150,000 employees and more than 15,000 physicians at health care organizations nationwide.

Following are some of the major findings of the 2006 report:

-- As more and more procedures are done through ambulatory surgery and outpatient centers, hospitals face stiff competition for patients. With an average mean satisfaction score of 91.1 for ambulatory surgery and 90.3 for outpatient services, hospitals must achieve a new level of excellence to remain competitive.

-- Patient satisfaction in physician offices declines substantially for every five minutes an appointment is delayed.  The critical tipping point for waiting comes at 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, patient satisfaction plunges to a level where patient loyalty is at risk.

-- Satisfaction with emergency room waiting times increases by simply providing patients with information about any delay at regular intervals.  In fact, patients with long wait times who receive information about delays are more satisfied and understanding than those with short wait times who are less informed.

-- Nurses and technical workers are the most dissatisfied healthcare employees while healthcare executives and administrators, by a wide margin, are the most satisfied.  This gap is so significant that it may suggest healthcare management is losing touch with front-line employees like nurses.

-- The higher a physician's level of satisfaction with a hospital, the higher a patient's level of satisfaction with the care he or she receives.

-- Facilities seeking to improve relations with their physicians do not need to do so at the sacrifice of patients. The high correlation of physicians' overall satisfaction with patients' perception of the quality of care indicates that physicians are loyal to facilities that are customer focused.  Appealing to physician desires at the expense of patients may have a negative impact on physician loyalty.  The same can be applied to employee satisfaction.

Source: Press Ganey Associates, Inc.






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