Patient Satisfaction Has New Significance for Labs

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ONCE AGAIN, THE DARK REPORT IS FIRST TO CALL YOUR ATTENTION to a national trend not previously recognized. Specifically, I refer to how the focus by hospitals on patient safety and patient satisfaction has surfaced the dissatisfaction most patients have with phlebotomy and, by extension, with the representatives of hospital labs who draw blood. Surveys in recent years show that hospital patients have expressed significant dissatisfaction with phlebotomy.

With satisfaction scores trending low like this, hospital CEOs are paying attention and devoting new resources into improving how patients view phlebotomy services. In this issue, we report national data from Press Ganey Associates, Inc., that shows how patients consistently rated their lab experience among the least satisfactory in the hospital. Clearly, labs have a significant opportunity to help improve the patient satisfaction rankings of their hospital.

Seeing an opportunity, some pathologists and lab directors are getting in front of this trend. One strategy is to return phlebotomy to a centralized service in their hospital as a way to reduce errors and improve patient satisfaction numbers. (See our article, “Phlebotomy Gets Heightened Attention for Improving Patient Satisfaction,” in TDR dated October 29, 2007.) Another strategy being used by hospital administrators is to invest in equipment and products designed to improve the patient’s venipuncture experience. (See page 10, “Improving Phlebotomy Lifts Satisfaction Scores.”) I think it’s a noteworthy fact that hospital CEOs are willing to spend money on products to make patients more comfortable with phlebotomy collections. That shows a keen interest in lifting patient satisfaction scores in their hospital, for a very good reason: reimbursement will soon be linked to patient satisfaction.

Next year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will take patient satisfaction to new levels when it links reimbursement to survey scores. Beginning July 1, CMS will require HCAHPS (the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey) for use in general acute care hospitals to maintain eligibility for full reimbursement updates.

Matt Mulherin of Press Ganey told us that, within the next year, patients’ perceptions of the care they receive in hospitals will be publicly reported. Mulherin says that HCAHPS is a new and formal process to give patients more power and help them make informed decisions. By linking these scores directly to reimbursement, patient satisfaction will get even more scrutiny.

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