Do Patient Satisfaction Surveys Help or Hurt Reimbursement?

April 22, 2014
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patient satisfaction

patient satisfaction

How Patient Satisfaction Influences Reimbursement

The “patient is always right” model has been the primary driving force behind healthcare for the last several decades. But is this the right approach? Classifying patients as “customers” is a slippery slope. While you might be able to barter with a customer at a shop about the price of a necklace, should doctors ever barter with a patient about their treatment? What about when their patient satisfaction scores are drooping low?

In this day and age, patients have unlimited information at their fingertips. Google and WebMD have allowed anyone with web access to plug in their symptoms and return sometimes hundreds of possible conditions and diseases. When they come to the doctor, they may be “put off” if the doctor doesn’t run every test, consider every possibility and prescribe them the exact drug that came up in their search results.

When patient satisfaction surveys come around, even if their doctor did what was reasonable, they may still end up with low scores.

One proponent of this is health literacy: nine out of ten patients do not have the skills needed to get and interpret information about their health. In turn, they are at odds with their doctor. The doctor’s patient satisfaction scores are low, then the hospital’s are low, and suddenly there are financial penalties, lost revenue and even poor morale among employees.

How Can We Remedy Patient Satisfaction Scores? 

Not only do patients encounter difficulties processing health information in and outside of the doctor’s office, but the patient satisfaction surveys themselves are often poorly designed, too long and tend to have a historically low completion rate: which, in turn, means less usable data. Or, even worse, skewed and unreliable data.

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Addressing community health literacy as a whole is no small task, but taking even small steps forward to increase access to resources and create content for patients that is easy-to-read, actionable and brief is helpful. 

Redesigning patient satisfaction surveys to follow a similar format will not only increase the number of completed surveys, it will assure that the questions are understood.

In the exam room, doctors also need to keep in mind that the “patient is always right” model is not to be widely applied to diagnosis and treatment. A physician’s integrity needs to come before their attempt to bolster patient satisfaction scores. And patient satisfaction surveys, if they don’t respect and reflect the integrity of the physician, need to be redesigned.