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Hospital Survey Indicates Lots Of Room For Improvement

Armen Hareyan's picture
Hospital Survey Reveals Need For Improvement

Recently reported hospital survey data indicates moderately high levels of satisfaction with hospital patient care. However, only 67.4% of hospital patients who responded would definitely recommend their hospital. For most academic institutions and businesses, that would constitute a failing grade.

The survey, as part of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), was incorporated by the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA) in a continuing effort to improve the quality of health care delivery. The new data from HCAHPS is an attempt to understand patient experiences in the hospital setting. The survey data came from 2,400 institutions, or 60 percent of U.S. hospitals.

Lead study author Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an assistant professor for health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, summed up the findings nicely. "These data represent a sea of change for the health care system," Jha said.

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Hospital patients showed the greatest dissatisfaction with their hospital experience as it related to excess noise, with just over half of the patients indicating they always had a quiet room. In recent years, hospitals have moved toward single patient hospital rooms to increase privacy and decrease disturbances of other patients. Sick patients often times need peace and quiet to aid in their recovery.

The study findings on hospital care, reported in the October 30, 2008 New England Journal of Medicine, addressed four questions. How do U.S. hospitals perform on measurements of patient's experiences, and is performance with respect to one element of a patient's experience related to performance with respect to another experience? Do patients who receive care in hospitals with three key characteristics (for-profit status, higher nursing staffing, and nonteaching status) report better experiences than patients in hospitals without these characteristics? Is a hospital's ability to provide patient-centered care related to its performance on measures of clinical quality? How variable is the performance of hospitals across regions?

The survey findings suggest hospitals with more nurses to care for patients had more satisfied patients, and hospitals that performed well on the survey generally provided a higher quality of care across all measures of clinical quality. Regional difference in patient experience were also apparent, with the New York City area lagging behind.

Jha hopes transparency of patient satisfaction will internally drive hospital systems to improve the experiences of the hospitalized patient. "Hopefully, this will motivate them to choose higher quality providers," Jha said. "Through that, I hope hospitals will begin to improve."