April 2, 2012

One of the tricky things I encountered when moving to San Francisco was having to find new healthcare providers. A new OB/GYN, a new dentist, a new eye doctor, a new primary care physician (though I haven’t gone to a primary care doctor in forever). So I did the search to find a provider in my network, and scheduled an appointment. But how do I make the decision of which doctor to see? I don’t want to waste my time and money seeing someone who I won’t trust or who’s not friendly or who rushes through my appointment.

Enter patient satisfaction surveys. It’s the new thing to survey patients on things like if their medications were explained to them, if the doctor is addressing your concerns, things like that. In fact, Medicare is starting to use these survey scores as part of their reimbursement equation. That’s a big deal.

Of course, providers are getting nervous. In a New York Times article, an oncology nurse talks about how “hospitals aren’t hotels” – it’s often not the most pleasant experience. No doubt, in an oncology unit, that’s by far the majority of the time. So the fear is that when you have patients, who aren’t going to have the best outcome or who are going to undergo a painful treatment, how are they going to rate your hospital? Doctors sometimes need to be “cruel to be kind in the right measure“. Fair question. Patients as reviewers could easily be vindictive. I didn’t like the dentist who told me I had five cavities. And I’ve definitely written my fair share of negative restaurant reviews on Yelp.

But the point, isn’t to do a patient’s bidding and make sure they’re happy as a clam. It’s there to make sure patients are getting a quality level of communication and understanding of their hospital visit. I think it will be valuable for hospitals and providers to get this kind of feedback. It might be a problem they don’t even know is happening. I’m all for it, even though I’ll stick to recommendations for finding a new provider.


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