Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

When HCAHPS Scores and Patient Satisfaction Surveys Become Irrelevant

January 24, 2014

HCAHPS, patient satisfaction surveysWhile the healthcare industry is focused on measuring outcomes, we have also reduced the human outcomes to multiple choice tests. Probably most people who take these tests guess at the most likely approved answer rather than what is actually true.

So, I feel it’s critical to fully understand the limitations of HCAHPS scores and patient satisfaction surveys as far as what they actually reveal about what happened to anyone.

During my own stay at a hospital in Southern Nevada last July, the minute to minute lived experience was hardly reflected in any survey. In fact, after receiving numerous calls from the hospital and physician groups and refusing to take a survey, I finally decided to tell the truth.  This is how the call went:

Caller: Hello, is this Susan Mazer?

Me: Yes.

Caller: I am calling from Dr. X’s office wanting to find out how you are and how you found your care at the hospital.

Me: Actually, I am doing well, but I was most frustrated by the care at the hospital. The physician’s care was good, but the pain medication was dosed out according to some schedule he used that was unrelated to how I was feeling. Then, the antiemetic — I was suffering from nausea without relief. The doctor finally changed the meds, but it took almost five hours to get the drug to me. Oh, the other thing is that I could neither eat nor sleep, and nothing was offered to help me sleep. Given that I was in the hospital for 10 days, not sleeping was contributing to my misery.

Caller:  Hmm. Thank you for telling me, but I am at a call center in Seattle and I really cannot do anything about this but see if I can report this to my supervisor who may tell the doctors.

How satisfying was that? If the goal is to hear a patient’s concerns and fully understand what really happened, then call centers with employees whose job is just it is to call but not to care, are failing.

The real question in front of all of us when we ask, “How was your experience?” is do we really want to know? And, if we want to know and are given intimate insights into the real life and suffering of another, then we have an obligation to do something with that information that matters.

What do you think?

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