Let’s Make Patients Happy! (It May Be Easier Than Making Them Well)

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By Jim Murphy, OD Consultant

There have been many posts here on the patient satisfaction movement, but it seems as if the stories never end.  Indeed, there may a trend of concentrating on patient happiness as opposed to patient wellness!

Here are some recent reports on “satisfied patients”.  We will suppress the source, since it a good one and well intentioned Lolly_in_the_sky_(290744178)and we don’t want to offend anyone.

“Patients are happiest with their doctors in Oakland, California and San Francisco, and unhappiest in New York state and other California cities, according to a new study.”

Now does that finding really say anything about the comparative quality of healthcare in those states? Or is it just that people in New York tend to be critical, whereas those in the Bay Area tend toward the self-esteem and positive psychology?

“Researchers collected Yelp and Google+ ratings for more than 46,000 individual doctors, hospitals, clinics and group medical practices and averaged them, ranking each city according to the average rating. “

But, as has been noted here, what may work well for restaurant reviews may not be appropriate for ranking healthcare organizations.  Indeed, if one reads the Yelp reviews of hospitals, it is apparent that many if not most were not actually based on actual patient experience, much less informed understanding , whereas it’s pretty safe to assume that people who reviewed a restaurant actually ate there and can tell good food and service from bad.

120px-Bowl_of_cherries_with_red_accent“From these findings, I’d say that doctors get much better reviews than hotels, restaurants and retail businesses”.

Of course it could be that healthcare institutions provide better service on average than businesses in other industries.  But could not the explanation be that people perceive doctors more favorably than other occupations and so tend to give them higher ratings?

“There was no apparent correlation between wealth and patient satisfaction.”

Actually, what is meant apparently is that scores in wealthier communities were not higher than those in poorer ones.  But given that many studies have verified the idea that money can’t buy happiness, there is really no surprise here.

However, another study “found that information in online hospital ratings is not varied or diverse enough to help patients determine the best hospitals”.

So what’s the point? Surely, there are many objective measures for rating healthcare organizations, such as safety standards. Why, then, is so much effort being spent on subject evaluations by patients and by people who like to do online reviews? Why are people drawing conclusion from data that is of such dubious significance?

Trendy star ratings are not going to improve healthcare.  A “PR focus” only detracts the really needed work of reforming systems.

Jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching. www.manage2001.com   jim@manage2001.com




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