So in FierceHealthcare today my colleague John Irvine wrote this
Some hospitals have argued for years that patient satisfaction scores can be misleading when it comes to gauging the quality of the healthcare services they receive. After all, patients are only human, aren’t they? And can easily be swayed by factors that have little if anything to do with the true quality of care. A new study out in the Annals of Internal Medicine appears to back this view. RAND Researchers and a team from the University of California Los Angeles surveyed 236 elderly patients, asking them to rate the quality of the care they had received. The average response was 8 out of 10. Follow up on patient records determined that patients received the recommended care 55 percent of the time. Now those numbers may seem relatively unimpressive, but they are evidence of a something that many providers have intuitively believed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
That apparently struck a nerve with FH reader Ann Farrell. She wrote to me about this problem, and one senses a little frustration in her voice!
It drives me NUTS when people (smart people and even payors) confuse satisfaction with quality of care – two things that are NOT THE SAME, and in fact many times not correlated. In some studies patients getting ongoing excellent care are exposed to the health system more than their healthy counterparts thus have more opportunities for service gaps. People in this study’s satisfaction with plans decreased the more they received treatment, as good as it may be clinically.Quality of care has to do with the addressing underlying problems, i.e. getting diagnosed properly then improving status of medical condition or receiving palliative care if no improvement possible .For example, my diabetes is being treated with best practices leading to optimal outcomes, lack of complications, etc. We know from recent market data that this only happens 55% (if my recall correct) of time. Consumers are by and large clueless about the actual quality of care they are receiving, and many unaware of the patient safety data, i.e. we’re killing close to 100K people a year, which is not only bad quality but introducing medical problems, e.g. nosocomial infections, or actively killing patients, e.g. drug errors.Quality of care and patient safety have nothing to do with service or satisfaction, which is often based on parking, food, access/TATs and perception of care providers, “does someone answer my call bell quickly when I need them?” You can have great service and woeful quality, or visa versa. When I worked with benchmarking data University Hospitals has better quality outcomes than community hospitals they competed with so patients tolerated bad service, i.e. waiting for hours in waiting rooms, etc. Now specialty hospitals and some community hospitals are delivering comparable care and differentiating based on improved service. So the fact that people still use the terms interchangeably is baffling. MOST patients haven’t known what the quality of their care is – the Internet is changing that in terms of better access to care standards and evidence.Sorry, as you can see this struck a huge chord with me, we have to know what problem we’re tackling to solve it. The industry confuses this.
For some reason the issue of quality, waste, doctors not providing optimal care, etc seems to be a contentious one on THCB. I personally believe that fixing the consumer satisfaction part of health care is easier to do and equally necessary than fixing the care process. But they are separate things (both of which the system deals with very badly). But what do I know? Feel free to have at it in the comments!