Hospital customer satisfaction levels declined in the past year, joining the energy sector as the only two industries whose scores declined. And this in spite of a strong emphasis on patient satisfaction by hospital CEOs.
Times have been tough in this economy. For almost everyone. And it’s true for hospitals as well. It has led to implementation of various cost saving initiatives in most hospitals. And in some, it has necessitated layoffs. It appears the result has also caused a decline in patient satisfaction. According to American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which measures consumer satisfaction for ten economic sectors, hospitals’ satisfaction scores fell 5 % over the past year. Only the energy sector joined hospitals with a decline. It’s clear why there was a decline in the energy sector but both surprising and troubling there was a decline with hospitals.
The results were reported by Philip Betbeze in HealthLeaders Media. Overall hospital satisfaction dropped 5% with inpatient satisfaction recording the largest decrease. This is especially interesting when more and more hospital leaders are stating they are placing a stronger emphasis on patient satisfaction.
In fact, Betbeze reports that in the 2010 HelathLeaders Media Industry Survey, many leaders are making patient satisfaction their number priority. Over 38% selected patient satisfaction as their top priority and it was near the top in most of the other surveys.
Hopefully, this increased emphasis on patient satisfaction will turn the tide and lead to significant increases in future surveys. It needs to. Declining patient satisfaction will lead to trouble in many other ways and will certainly negatively impact our hospitals’ brands. When that happens there are long-term effects.
Sure there is great pressure in hospitals to cut costs in the face of a struggling economy, decreased reimbursements and an uncertain industry environment. But as Betbeze correctly states, “investments in patient satisfaction require more commitment than cash. In fact, relative to other investments hospitals have to make, such as high-tech imaging systems, new patient towers, and new operating suites, patient satisfaction improvement is instead based on clean rooms and hallways, better, hotter food, better service, and more eye contact, among other, seemingly simple fixes. Those things improve with culture”
It is certainly disheartening to see satisfaction scores decrease while management makes it a top priority. Hopefully it means there is not just lip service to the problem but the results just haven’t been fully manifested and thus not appearing in the survey results yet. It is certainly a necessity to stop the decline and improve satisfaction scores. So much depends on it. There are many things in healthcare that management cannot control but a patient-centered culture and a commitment to patient satisfaction is one that can be impacted. It must be!