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Hospitals Push to Raise Patient Experience Scores

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 30, 2011

This article appears in the September 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

At Lehigh Valley Health Network’s two hospitals, teams are trying to improve patient experience scores, especially for one metric that for them seems the toughest: reducing noise levels around patients’ rooms.

“We’re the largest trauma center in Pennsylvania, with four helicopters coming in and out, and it’s pretty hard to overcome that,” says Anthony J. Ardire, MD, Lehigh’s senior vice president for quality and patient safety. “I don’t want to rationalize our scores, but that’s the reality.”

Lehigh, 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has replaced metal plates in the doors that banged whenever they opened or closed, stopped playing the Brahms’ “Lullaby” whenever a new baby was born at night, no longer uses the overhead pager to request wheelchairs be returned to the ED, and stopped 5-minute alerts when a trauma patient was incoming. Nurses now distribute earplugs so patients can get a better night’s sleep.

Teams also make sure patients realize the hospital’s trauma status translates to high-quality services in many specialty areas, so patients will even appreciate the helicopters’ noise.

Since taking those and many other steps, “We’ve moved our scores up some, and we’re closer to the national average,” Ardire says. “In fact, Lehigh improved its noise scores by 24% in both facilities from the second quarter to the third quarter.”

There’s a lot of money at stake. 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that Medicare reduce FY 2013 payments for about 3,500 acute care hospitals by 1% of their diagnosis-related group amounts, or about $850 million. They can earn that money back and more, however, if their scores exceed those of their competitors.

For Lehigh Valley’s 950-bed system, the amount of potential loss translates to about $2 million.  

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2 comments on "Hospitals Push to Raise Patient Experience Scores"


Sue (10/6/2011 at 3:25 PM)
This is a positive! I worked for an organization that placed credence on worker satisfaction and believe me the cuts they made to eliminate qualified staff who knew about quality care was a sin. The focus was to make low level staff content and it showed when patient harm/injuries escalated. CMS standards requirements will deteriorate the orgs who focus on "Great Place to Work" satire; the real customer has been ignored far too long.

Steve Wilkins (9/30/2011 at 10:56 AM)
Can you imagine what would happen to hospitals and other providers if Medicare patients knew the power they will soon have over hospital reimbursement?! Instead of telling hospitals what they want to hear on satisfaction surveys...their comments can actually make a real difference... scary isn't it.