Reform Ties Hospital Payments to Patient Satisfaction

But the customer isn't always right, hospitals complain
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2012 2:03 AM CDT
Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital has made major changes ahead of the shift in how payments are allocated.   (AP Photo/Gene Blythe)

(Newser) – In a shift that is causing a lot of grumbling among health care professionals, payments to hospitals treating Medicare patients are being tied to patient happiness for the first time, the Wall Street Journal reports. The program, part of a larger pay-for-performance system built into ObamaCare, will help determine how nearly $1 billion in payments is distributed. The payment rate will be based on a 27-question survey given to patients, as well as on how well the hospitals follow procedures for treating things like heart attacks.

Doctors and nurses say that patient satisfaction shouldn't be so big a factor, especially since many patients have unrealistic expectations. "You go to Disney for a great vacation experience," says the chief nursing officer at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital. "You go to Ruth's Chris for a great dining experience. Do you think it is a great experience when I tell you that you have stage-four cancer and you may be dead in three months?" But federal officials say the scoring system, adjusted for differences between hospitals, is an accurate way of measuring the quality of hospital care, and most of the measures being looked at involve communication between patients and hospital staff. (Read more Medicare stories.)

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