Economic conditions and new regulations in recent years have driven new ideas and, in some cases, tough decisions for hospital executives to continue delivering quality patient care while also managing a fiscally sound organization. As with other industries, there have been numerous mergers and acquisitions in healthcare largely driven from necessary adjustments to improve financial performance. And in many cases, the near-term results have been positive, with efficiencies gained from the consolidation of various support functions.
But the impact on patients has yielded mixed results. A recent study led by a team from Harvard Medical School suggests that “patient satisfaction deteriorates modestly” when a hospital is acquired by another hospital or system. The data from 246 acquired hospitals between 2007 and 2013 shows that patient experience scores dropped over nine percentage points as compared to a control group. Using a metric of referral along with feedback of specific caregiver communications, patients generally reported a lesser experience in these hospitals as compared to similar results from hospitals that did not have such an organizational change. It is important to note that this same study that actual quality of care from these acquired hospitals did not fluctuate, as readmission rates remained effectively stable during and after these transitions.
So, what about patient satisfaction when hospitals merge? On this topic, the classic adage may apply that “perception is reality”. Patient perceptions may be influenced by external media as well as from conversations with caregivers during a hospital stay. With change can come uncertainty about overall business approaches, as well as personal concerns about job stability and individual careers. Unfortunately, those circumstances can spill over into patient interactions that may have an unintended negative impact on perception of care. And in some cases where nursing resources are thought to be already stretched thin, these business decisions may trickle down to additional stress on the primary caregivers in the hospital.
However, a great plan to minimize such an unexpected negative impact on patient satisfaction is to build a robust patient communications program that extends from the hospital visit to and through discharge. Regular dialogues with patients, especially as they recover from a hospital stay, is a visible indicator to patients that will likely result in improved perceptions of care. And that’s where PREMEDEX can help. Our trained care coordinators talk to hundreds of patients every day as an extension of our client hospital care team. And using market-leading technology, the PREMEDEX team can capture detailed patient feedback and alert caregivers if there is a need for intervention.
Business decisions don’t have to negatively impact patient satisfaction. Contact PREMEDEX today to learn more about our approach to patient communications.