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Test for hospital budgets: Are the patients pleased?

The New York Times, November 8, 2011

"I'm a great kvetcher," said Pearl Schwartz, sitting in her hospital bed at NYU Langone Medical Center. Indeed, during her brief stay to receive a pacemaker, Ms. Schwartz, an 88-year-old retired state worker, had a litany of complaints. Sure, the nurses were "splendid, warm and kind" and sang in her room — and her operation went off without a hitch. But her sink was too small, she had to wait eight hours in the radiology unit for an X-ray, and no one brought her anything to read as she had requested. Winning praise from patients has become a pressing — and often elusive — obsession for NYU and for hospitals nationwide. In the coming months, Medicare will start taking patient satisfaction into account when reimbursing hospitals. Disgruntled patients will mean reduced revenue, a frightening prospect for hospitals already facing empty beds.