Recently there was article being linked to on Facebook by a few of my coworkers titled “Patient Satisfaction is Overrated” written by Dr. William Sonnenberg.  Here’s a link to the article.  A few years ago we were called to staff meeting and some changes being made to how Medicare reimburses hospitals and doctors were explained to us.  Basically, Medicare is now holding back a portion of what they would normally pay to a hospital or physician for a certain hospital stay or procedure.  The hospital or doctor can then earn back that percentage of payment by having high/good patient satisfaction scores.  The reasoning is that Medicare wants hospitals and physicians to provide not just mediocre, decent care but quality care.  They want health care providers to not just do their job, but to do it well.  I can understand that reasoning and in theory completely agree.  Hospitals and doctors who skate by and provide just the minimum level of quality of care considered adequate should be told they need to improve.  But as with many theories, putting it into practice has a few problems.  The biggest ones were hit on perfectly by the author of this article.  By being essentially forced to bend over backwards to give the patient exactly what they want and keep them happy, we’re not always giving them the best care we can.  Sometimes not even the appropriate care they need, in the case of overprescribing antibiotics when they’re not necessary.  It ends up putting the emphasis in the wrong place.  It takes the emphasis away from patient teaching and preventative medicine and places it on what amounts to customer satisfaction.  While listening to our patients and their needs is definitely a positive thing, making what they think they want and are asking for such a priority is not.  It ends up creating frustration in doctors, nurses, and others directly involved in patient care.  I’ve seen changes come and go over my years as a nurse.  I hope this change goes… the sooner the better.

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