The problem with patient surveys

Patient satisfaction is an important part of hospital operations, but hospital leaders should consider the nuances of measuring patient experience before acting on survey results, according to a blog post on the AMA Wire.

Three concerns about patient experience surveys for physicians, hospital administrators and policymakers to consider:

1. Patients may get unneeded treatments. Physicians frequently spend less time than they would like with their patients and may feel pressure to hasten the choice and explanation of treatments. If physicians face low patient satisfaction scores, they may approve requests for low-value or unneeded treatments to fulfill patients' wants.

2. High survey scores may increase disparities. Safety-net hospitals often score lower on patient satisfaction than hospitals giving less care to underserved populations, meaning one-size-fits-all financial incentives for experience scores could lead to larger disparities in care and satisfaction.

Concerns over penalties for low satisfaction scores may also make physicians avoid caring for poorer patients and patients with mental illness.

3. Responses may be suspect. Patients' expectations and perceptions of care may not accurately reflect care quality measures. Additionally, voluntary surveys are often long and may not be completed immediately after patients received care, producing selection and recall biases in patients with experiences at the extremes.

More articles on patient engagement:
Patient experience key to driving brand loyalty, report finds
How this Intermountain nurse comforts deceased patients' families
Care decision-makers often overly confident about loved ones' treatment wishes

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