Patricia Johnson

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Happy Patients, Profitable Hospitals

Beginning in October 2012, patient satisfaction will reach a new level of importance to hospitals. Medicare, the largest single payer for hospital services, will give patient satisfaction more weight in determining hospital reimbursements based on quality of care.

In accordance with a new rule mandated by the Affordable Care Act, hospitals will soon compete against each other to best satisfy patients, receive the highest scores, and ultimately see higher reimbursements for services. Medicare plans to reserve 1 percent of its regular hospital reimbursements for a bonus fund, to be distributed to hospitals based on performance rankings and yearly score improvement.

Patient satisfaction ratings will be used to determine 30 percent of the total bonus payments.

To determine the ratings, patients will be asked to fill out Medicare-approved surveys once they are discharged. The surveys will ask a variety of questions regarding the patient’s level of satisfaction with their overall experience, including staff communication, the hospital environment, and the level of care. Medicare intends to set the bar very high, giving hospitals credit for only the highest possible responses.

Unhappy patients will now mean less revenue, an unpleasant thought for hospitals already struggling with increased pressure from insurers. Hospitals will have to put more thought and greater effort into delivering superior service and ensuring positive patient experiences. Service providers should ask patients directly about their performance in order to fully understand patient expectations and to determine how best to make improvements.

Hospitals can be proactive in improving patient service by implementing their own patient satisfaction surveys. Survey On the Spot’s real-time surveys can be customized to ask specific questions about their patient’s experience, allowing hospitals to spot weak areas that might negatively influence their ratings and to identify and solve potential problems before the patient checks out.

Through survey results, service providers are able to analyze their own performance and make the appropriate changes for their next patient, and any issues can be quickly addressed before subsequent patients are negatively affected. Results are recorded in real time and service providers are immediately notified of any negative feedback, allowing staff to quickly act to solve the problem before the patient leaves. Simply administering the survey on-site demonstrates genuine concern for the patient’s experience.

With Medicare’s new ratings system, it is of the utmost importance for hospitals to take extra steps to understand patient expectations, target weak areas, and identify and respond to immediate issues. What better way to ensure all of the above by asking patients directly? Real-time surveys will set the foundation for patient satisfaction, higher ratings, and better reimbursements.

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