Monday, October 15, 2012

Grady Memorial Hospital aims to improve satisfaction scores through better doctor-patient relationships, premium cable

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 1:21 PM

In an attempt to improve its overall patient experience, Grady Memorial Hospital is trying their hand at a number of different tactics. Some of these ideas seem obvious, like having doctors and nurses communicate better and in a more timely fashion.

But other measures — like subscribing to ESPN to expand bedside viewing options or revamping menus to include delicious, premium choices such as wild salmon — seem a bit outside what's expected from a typical trip to the hospital.

Considering Grady's history of financial struggles, avoiding additional costs associated with these amenities might seem like the way to go. But according to The Wall Street Journal's new report, these changes are largely in response to a recently-enacted portion of President Barack Obama's health-care reform. As a part of the system's overhaul, the federal government has changed how they pay hospitals who treat Medicare users — relying in part on a 27-question survey given to patients. If hospitals receive a high enough evaluation, they may receive a slice of an estimated $1 billion in payments allocated to satisfaction-based performance.

"I don't know anybody in my field who isn't totally preoccupied with it," Grady CEO John M. Haupert told the WSJ.

Medicare will decrease payments to all hospitals by 1 percent this fiscal year, redistributing an estimated $963 million to standout performers. That amount will double to 2 percent by 2017. These surveys will comprise up to 30 percent of hospital's evaluations — which also take into account conventional statistics, such as how hospitals perform rather than patients' perspectives.

The federal government has circulated these surveys dating back to 2006, but it wasn't until last July that their results became tied to funding incentives. Starting on Oct. 1, hospitals began to receive performance bonuses based on these results.

While efforts to improve overall hospital experience seem like a noble policy change, many health industry professionals have argued against the policy shift, claiming that this survey-based approach puts hospitals that aren't necessarily state-of-the-art — older, urban facilities or ones with often overcrowded emergency rooms, for example — at a disadvantage.

Haupert projects that Grady will lose close to $230,000 in federal funding, citing low survey scores that fell below the national average. It also doesn't help when 85 percent of Grady's admissions arrive through its emergency room, where the average patient waits around 7.2 hours per visit.

Hospital officials figure that an additional $4 million will be spent in efforts to raise survey scores. So it's safe to say that the premium cable and gourmet entrees will continue for the foreseeable future.

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