We have all seen hospital advertising boasting of high "patient ratings." A recent article in the print edition of Forbes magazine (January 21, 2013) says that the idea of asking patients to grade their doctors perverts the practice of medicine.
Here is the problem: a patient who comes to the emergency department and is in pain might think that the solution is to get a big dose of heavy pain medication. That would make the patient happy but might not be in their best interest. When the doctor, practicing prudent medicine, refuses to narcotic pain medication the patient may give the doctor and the hospital a "low score."
Here is the scary part: there were doctors quoted in the article who are altering how they treat patients based upon the knowledge that their own payments are based in part upon high "patient approval ratings." So, instead of booting the patient out the door, they give them the drugs.
The article quotes a survey of 52,000 adult patients who found that the "most satisfied patients" spend the most on health care and prescription drugs. They were 12% more likely to be admitted to the hospital and accounted for 9% more in total healthcare costs. (There were also the ones most likely to die.)
What do you think? Have you ever been presented with a patient satisfaction survey after a visit to a hospital? Do you give the hospital high marks because it has a great parking lot?