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Paduda: Patient Satisfaction Does Not Equal Quality of Care

By Joe Paduda

Friday, May 26, 2023 | 1

Health care quality is a huge issue in the United States. Despite claims that we have the best health care in the world, the reality is far different.

Joe Paduda

Joe Paduda

Why? I’d argue it's because health care consumer behavior drives our for-profit system.

What makes patients happy is completely unrelated to the actual quality of medical care they receive or how likely they are to die.

A research article is here.

Patient satisfaction doesn’t vary by hospital mortality and varies just a little by medical quality, but varies a LOT by nurse communication.

The effect of nurse communication on patient satisfaction is four times larger than the effect of the hospital’s mortality rate. Yup, as long as the nurse smiles, is responsive and nice, we’re satisfied. Never mind if we’re a lot more likely to die.

Another oft-measured factor, the quietness of the rooms, has a 40% larger effect on patient satisfaction than medical quality.

This is because hospitals provide two separate and distinct kinds of services: the technical delivery of medical care and “room-and-board-related” services. Patients are much better at observing and rating the hospitality part of their hospital stay than the medical care they get.

To quote the researchers, "Hospitality is the fast track to customer satisfaction in medicine."

What does this mean for you?

Customer satisfaction is the fast track to profits, not to good medical care.

Joseph Paduda is co-owner of CompPharma, a consulting firm focused on improving pharmacy programs in workers’ compensation. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.


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