Hospitals hire 'secret shoppers' to evaluate care quality

Hospitals are increasingly hiring "secret shoppers," or consultants pretending to be patients, to better evaluate the quality of care they provide, according to The New York Times.

The secret shoppers use pseudonyms and report symptoms of an illness that takes a while to diagnose, such as a psychiatric condition or irregular heartbeat. As various clinicians see them through tests and IV insertion, the consultants evaluate how they are treated. They also conduct systematic interviews with patients, executives and hospital workers to complement the first-hand experiences.

The secret shoppers present their findings to the hospital, which can then implement new measures to improve patients' experience.

Secret shoppers have revealed several care quality issues in recent years. A group of them contributed research to help cut telephone wait times for patients at orthopedics clinics in Washington state. A secret shopper study published this month revealed over a third of patients in need of opioid addiction treatment were denied an appointment.

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