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Forbes Questions Patient Satisfaction Scores

March 17, 2013

An article in Forbes recently questioned the value of patient satisfaction scores for both pay-for-performance schemes and as markers of quality and value in general.

The article effectively exposed the inordinate sway Press Ganey has on the hearts and minds of hospital administrators. Press Ganey is an influential patient satisfaction survey company many hospitals hire to appease insurance companies, government agencies, and employers. This is in spite of evidence that the most satisfied patients cost the most and are the most likely to die, according to a study from UC-Davis.

A supporting anecdote in the story was of an ER with low patient satisfaction scores who started offering Vicodin “goody bags” to discharged patients to boost their ratings.

American businesses who actually pay for a big chunk of U.S. healthcare want accountability in the system, which is understandable. However, they are mis-applying constructs from their markets to the healthcare industry. There’s a world of difference between satisfying a customer who ordered cupcakes or a car from dealing with a patient and family who insist that the patient be admitted to the hospital, even though there is no valid reason to do so.

Congratulations to Kai Falkenberg of Forbes for pointing out the flaws of unfettered patient satisfaction ratings. Let’s hope Forbes’ business community readers change their attitudes as a result.

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