Patient Gripes Poor Indicators of Quality Care

John Commins, October 4, 2013

Hospitals that have the best survival outcomes are not doing the best job in the area of patient satisfaction, says a healthcare economist. Better indicators of quality are the number of beds and patient volume.

While quiet hospitals with friendly doctors and nurses who are attentive and quick to answer bedside buzzers might boost patient satisfaction scores, they don't necessarily correlate with quality care.

A far more important indicator of quality outcomes is the number of beds in the hospital and patient volume, says Robert D. Lieberthal, lead author of the study appearing in Risk Management and Insurance Review.

"There is a lot of information patients can use to select a hospital," says Lieberthal, a healthcare economist and assistant professor at the Jefferson School of Population Health in Philadelphia. "However, this is usually a laundry list of indicators that may not mean much for the lay person or that they may be unaware even exists. Our method compares hospitals directly, so that a patient choosing between two or three hospitals can easily compare them and choose the highest quality facility."

Lieberthal's findings are based on a statistical methodology known as PRIDIT that was originally designed to detect automobile insurance fraud. He reconfigured the model and uses it to establish a predictable scale for hospital quality so that actuaries could map out reimbursement rates over years for programs such as  Medicare and the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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