October 29, 2008 / 9:50 PM / 11 years ago

Many hospitals fail to please: survey

CHICAGO (Reuters) - New survey data ranking patients’ experiences in U.S. hospitals find many institutions fall short, particularly when it comes to managing pain, researchers said on Wednesday.

A nurse checks medical equipment in an operating room, April 14, 2008. REUTERS/ Jean-Paul Pelissier

The data come from newly available customer satisfaction surveys on 2,400 institutions or 60 percent of U.S. hospitals.

While customer satisfaction surveys are commonplace in service industries, patients in the United States rarely have had the chance to see how their hospital fares compared with the competition.

“It’s shocking that given the $2.1 trillion spent on health care that we have not had this kind of information before,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, a Harvard health policy researcher whose study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Every other industry does it,” he said in a telephone interview.

The data were collected as part of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey and are available to the public at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

Hospitals must participate in the survey if they want to get increases in payment rates from Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly, Jha said.

Jha and colleagues analyzed the data, which included questions on communication with doctors and nurses, communication about drugs, quality of nursing, how well hospitals prepared patients for discharge and pain management.

“Patients in general were satisfied with the care they received, but boy there is a lot of room for improvement,” Jha said.

He said patients especially found fault with pain management and hospital discharge instructions, two areas that have already been the target of quality improvement initiatives for several years.

Nearly a third of patients gave hospitals low marks in pain management, and about a fifth of patients said discharge instructions were not clearly communicated.

The survey also uncovered wide swings in satisfaction by region, with 72 percent of patients in Birmingham, Alabama, giving their hospitals high marks. Hospitals in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, got high marks from nearly 70 percent of patients.

But only about half of patients at hospitals in East Long Island, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York City ranking their performance a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale.

Jha hopes the rankings will lead to improvements in patient care.

Editing by Maggie Fox and Philip Barbara

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