Category Archives: Patient Experience

Good Enough?

There are a few themes that permeate this blog – the impact of new technology on medical practice, evidence-based care, health care financing, and a patient-centered approach to care delivery. The recent dust-up over the release of surgeon-specific outcome data touches almost all of them.

ProPublica, a not-for-profit organization devoted to investigative “journalism in the public interest” got the ball rolling last week with the publication of their “surgeon scorecard.” They compiled 5 years of Medicare data (2009-2013) on 8 generally elective surgical procedures: Knee and hip replacement, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, lumbar spinal fusion (broken out by anterior and posterior approach), “complete” prostatectomy, TURP and cervical spinal fusion. For each one, they identified a list of principal diagnosis codes associated with a hospital re-admission within 30 days of the surgery that could reasonably be interpreted as complications of the index surgery. For example, if a patient had undergone knee replacement and was admitted within 30 days with a principal diagnosis of “infection due to prosthesis” then that “counted” as a complication of surgery. Details of the methodology were provided online. The complication rates were adjusted by patient age, gender, and a few other variables, and their user-friendly tool allows for easy look-up of complication rates by surgeon or hospital.

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Yelp!

I have written previously about some “aha moments” that I have had as a clinician, when something that I knew was coming seemed to arrive with a thud in my own practice. I had another one of those moments a couple of weeks ago.

I was finishing up with a new patient, and had explained to him and his wife my assessment and recommendations, and had answered a bunch of questions they had.  I was frankly feeling pretty good about how the encounter had gone and as he was walking out of the exam room he said (more or less): “thanks doc; I’m glad I came to see you, and I am going to give you a really nice review on Yelp.” He was not kidding.

I didn’t know quite what to say immediately, but I ended up thanking him (somewhat awkwardly, I suspect) and then recovered enough to tell him that while I would – of course – appreciate a nice review on Yelp, I wanted him to know that he might be getting a patient satisfaction survey in the mail, and I would really appreciate it if he filled it out and sent it back in. Encounter over. New world order in place.

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Mistakes about “Patient Satisfaction”

I had two experiences recently that reminded me that many doctors and nurses remain resistant to measuring and improving how patients experience the care we provide. One was a face-to-face discussion with a senior physician. The other was reading an article by a nurse. Both the doctor and the nurse denounced the growing focus on the patient experience by citing the threat to quality of care, and I believe both of them were totally wrong.

The encounter with the physician came as I addressed a group of newly hired physicians. As I typically do in these circumstances, I outlined our Medical Group’s commitment to increasing the visibility of the results of our patient experience surveys. We have been providing our physicians with reports on their patients’ feedback for the better part of a year, and we anticipate posting physician-specific results on our public website within a few months. During the Q&A, one of the physicians objected to the plan, saying that “patients can’t judge the quality of care that we provide.”

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