Study Shows Patients Generally Satisfied with Hospital Care

November 3, 2008
Julia Ernst, MS

Although hospital patients are generally satisfied with the care that they receive as in-patients, there is a need for improvement in other areas, like pain management and discharge instructions, according to a new study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)...

Although hospital patients are generally satisfied with the care that they receive as in-patients, there is a need for improvement in other areas, like pain management and discharge instructions, according to a new study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2008-releases/patients-give-low-scores-hospitals-pain-management-discharge-instructions.html) that asked patients about their hospital stays and demographic characteristics. Responses were split into six groups: communication with doctors; communication with nurses; communication about medications; quality of nursing services; how well hospitals prepared patients for discharge; and pain management. More than 2,400 hospitals provided data, or about 60% of US hospitals.

Surprising to researchers were the results of the questions about pain management and discharge instructions. Both areas have been targeted for “accreditation and quality improvement initiatives for many years,” according to the research. However, almost one-third of patients were dissatisfied with pain management, and about one-fifth did not rate discharge instructions highly.

“These data really represent a sea change for the health care system,” said Ashish Jha, MD, lead author of the study. “Patient-centered care is at the heart of a high-performing system and, until now, we have lacked information on how patients feel about their care. With this information now freely available, providers and policymakers can begin to focus on improving patients’ experiences in the hospital.”

Other findings from the study include:

• On average, nearly 67% of patients would certainly recommend the hospital at which they were treated.

• Patients who were happier with their treatment were usually at hospitals with a greater ratio of nurses to patients.

• Highly rated hospitals were more often likely to provide a higher quality of care for heart attack, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and prevention of surgical complications

Demographics as a grouping factor in this study also played a role in patient satisfaction. Hospital patients in Birmingham, AL; Knoxville, TN; and Charlotte, NC all rated their care at about 70% or better. However, approval ratings in East Long Island, NY; Fort Lauderdale, FL; and New York City were much lower. Average ratings in these areas were about 52%.

Jha hopes that this data will enable healthcare professionals to provide better hospital experiences for patients as the field of medicine advances technologically. “As medicine becomes increasingly high tech, sometimes the basic needs of patients have gotten lost,” Jha said in the HSPH release. “Our hope is that by systematically measuring and publicly reporting on how patients experience their care, hospitals will be inspired to better meet the needs of their patients.”

To see data on individual hospitals, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Hospital Compare website at http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov

For more information on the HSPH survey, visit the following websites:

- New England Journal of Medicine: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/359/18/1921

- Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/127548.php- Health Policy, Health Reform, and Performance Improvement: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/publications_show.htm?doc_id=714985