With all the hubbub about the Affordable Care Act, one area seems to get remarkably little attention, perhaps because it offers little opportunity to make political hay.
For almost a year now, patient evaluations of the medical care they receive impacts healthcare facilities’ Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates. The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care. HCAHPS is a survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience. While many hospitals have collected information on patient satisfaction for their own internal use, until HCAHPS there was no national standard that allowed valid comparisons to be made across hospitals locally, regionally and nationally.
I’m amazed that this doesn’t have physicians and healthcare facilities banging down the doors of consumer marketers across the nation. This industry is not renowned for its customer focus. Let’s face it; the main thing we want from our healthcare provider is to keep us healthy. They meet our minimum satisfaction requirements if they keep us alive. But there are so many providers to choose from, so why don’t we demand more?
I had a physical a few months ago with a new doctor. She was pleasant & seemed competent, & recommended several tests, given that I had passed a notable birthday since my last physical. I dutifully executed the menu of tests she provided, paid the copays & then my jaw-dropping portion of the cost after the insurance paid theirs. I guess I must have done OK on the tests, because she didn’t call to tell me any bad news??? OK get over yourself, call her. So I call her office & ask to speak to the doctor to get her opinion on my test results. “Ma’am, I’d be happy to schedule an appointment for that.” Cha-ching! “No, ma’am, I can’t just have her call you. She doesn’t have time for that.”
Contrast that experience with the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, where my husband recently had a checkup for a heart condition. They have an online system where you preregister in advance of your appointment. They send you a complete itinerary of all your appointments, lined up back to back over 2 days. There’s a bar code on the itinerary; at each appointment they scan it so you never have to give out your information more than once. In fact, we provided it via the online system three years ago, and haven’t had to do anything since (if we need to make changes, we can do that online). At each appointment, results are recorded along with the practitioner’s comments & observations, so everyone we met with had all the same information. It was so clean you could eat off the floor, even in the stairwells, & didn’t have that “hospital smell.” It’s like a well-oiled machine, except that every person we encountered was warm, friendly, respectful & generous with their time – from the volunteers pointing you in the right direction all the way up to the world-renowned cardiac surgeon. You bet we paid a pretty penny for that Cadillac experience, right? Wrong. His chest x-ray cost 1/3 as much as mine did locally. His stress test cost less than the ones done at a teaching hospital on the East Coast where even the cockroaches in the stairwell weren’t eating off the floor. I’m sure it’s relatively inexpensive to do business in Rochester, Minnesota, but as one of the top-ranked hospitals in the world, the Mayo Clinic could probably get away with some pretty sweet markups.
Like everyone else, the thing I most want from my healthcare providers is quality medical care. I’ve decided that, from now on, I expect more than that. I expect to be treated with respect, & appreciated as a customer. I’m going to tell my doctor what I consider to be acceptable service. I consider that part of quality care. So when you next get an invitation to take that survey from your medical provider, I suggest you bother to fill it out. It’s only 27 questions, & it’s an opportunity to help this profession understand that care is about more than just surviving.