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The War between Patient Satisfaction and Patient Care – a reality check

At Soriant we truly believe in the importance of patient satisfaction but the question lies in – “at what expense to patient care.” I am sure you have that overweight relative who drinks, eats and possibly smokes too much, that person who complains about everything yet can’t seem to own his/her situation – change your lifestyle and talk a walk. Someone who truly does not seem to want to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, that represents a majority of people that end up at the hospital. People who don’t have or want to have the discipline to take care of themselves properly, to sacrifice that dessert or find the time to do that work out; the very people who find themselves in a hospital and then we ask them to rate their patient satisfaction – that experience in the hospital. That’s where it almost gets comical.

We would expect that the rating would be based on cleanliness, attention from the staff overall friendliness of the experience and it is…to some degree but the reality is:

  • The patients with the highest satisfaction were 12% more likely to be admitted to a hospital and had 9% higher drug and healthcare expenditures*.
  • Worse yet these patients were also 26% more likely to die*

Why you ask – well there are a number of reasons but the one that I want to focus on is unintended adverse outcomes – When Patients ask for things that they should not get or are unnecessary. What we are seeing is the potential for providers to change their behavior base on patient satisfaction scores and that can be a slippery slope.

When we all say that we have more of a sickcare system than a healthcare system where do we begin? The studies from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care have been widely cited for pointing out, that approximately 30% of healthcare expenditures in the United States are probably wasteful and for either discretionary or inappropriate care.* Clearly, an overemphasis on patient satisfaction could just make this worse.

At Soriant Solutions we drive for results that include patient satisfaction. Our focus on Support Services touches many areas that directly impact Patient Care. In the Food and Nutritional Department we see a shift to healthy choices in the retail space as well as the patient rooms but it can come at a ratings hit in patient satisfaction. The question is “should it be acceptable?” Should we work harder to improve communication and set better expectations of ourselves and the patients; and not allow the wrong reasons to drive the right results?

What we have found after conducting assessments across the country in hundreds of hospitals is the best way to get patient satisfaction ratings higher is to set best practices, that include balance score cards that focus on catching people do things right. To share the positive patient experiences that occur at the lowest wage employee and up to build a culture that is patient focused and continue to work towards empowering that patient to make life choices that makes them not want to come back to the hospital and become a statistic.


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