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Patients Set to Unleash Feedback on Doctors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 15, 2012

Certainly this is will be a wake-up call for many practitioners who didn't think they had to care about such issues, as long as their diagnoses, prescriptions, and referrals were medically justified.

"There is a deep sickness in the way care is delivered in many practices, and the source of this sickness is that consumers are not just free to change merchants because of crappy service," says e-Patient Dave deBronkart, a patient advocate, who after surviving stage 4 cancer decided to work toward improving care from the patient's perspective.

"Supposedly, as the reform legislation roles out, it will get easier, especially if it's easier to take records with you," deBronkart says. Some healthcare systems like the Cleveland Clinic are now offering same-day consults in any specialty, an expanding trend that will allow patients more opportunities to "vote with their feet."

The angry Facebook thread also made me wonder whether the satisfaction or frustration these patients will relate, in larger patient populations, might somehow translate to their outcomes of care.  Does a good patient experience encompassing engagement with the physician, courtesy by the receptionist and maybe even parking validation, mean the patient will get better faster, avoid hospitalization?

And conversely, might a long wait or perceived slight signal disrespect that the patient absorbs and perhaps in some subtle, indirect way translates to a poorer health outcome?

"Your instincts are on target," says Gordon Moore, MD, a family practitioner and fellow with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement who specializes in care measurement, patient experience, staff satisfaction, and their relationships to outcomes and cost.

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2 comments on "Patients Set to Unleash Feedback on Doctors"


Joel Selmeier (3/16/2012 at 12:54 AM)
Unfortunately, articulating the frustrations of patients is unlikely to protect future patients from caregivers who produce poor outcomes. When a dentist routinely installs unnecessary crowns, patient victims don't know they were unnecessary and so don't write warnings for future patients. The average victim of an adverse event in medicine never knows there was an adverse event, even when the result was disabling. Caregivers make sure of that. Patient feedback ends up being about the wait in the waiting room, not the really important matters. If patients do know something important to report, medicine is good at stopping them. So the difference that is going to be made by the coming feedback will be only about waiting room annoyances and bedside manner, not the really important things, like outcomes.

Kristin Baird, RN, BSN, MHA (3/15/2012 at 2:59 PM)
Great article Cheryl. The bottom line in the discussion is that people are emotional creatures which is at the core of the patient experience. How we gauge quality rests on our past experience and expectations. In every encounter, patients judge quality based on everything from wait time to cleanliness and whether or not the doctor looked them in the eye or remembered their name. Physicians can't rest on accurate diagnosis and treatment to thrill a consumer when that is a basic expectation. Healthcare is personal and usually delivered at a time when the consumer is stressed, anxious and vulnerable. CGCAHPS will raise the service bar as consumers use the standardized tool to compare providers. I recently conducted focus groups with consumers and the vast majority said they had googl'd their physician. In the same session participants said they rarely went to restaurants or made purchases without looking at online reviews. Consumers value other customer opinions. The writing is on the wall.