Analyze patient satisfaction surveys to evaluate local hospitals
When it comes to picking a hospital, most patients seem more interested in what their friends, relatives and neighbors think than in other measures of quality. That’s why the decision to add patient satisfaction measures to the Hospital Compare Web site is a significant development, both for the public and for reporters.
By looking at data for hospitals in your community or state, you may be able to quickly spot trends. Does one chain have a better track record than another? Do for-profit hospitals perform better than nonprofits? How about public hospitals?
Beginning in March 2008, the federal government began publicly reporting patient satisfaction measures for hospitals across the United States. The survey tool, known as HCAHPS, is the first attempt by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to standardize survey results of patients' perspectives of hospital care.
When the data was first released in 2008, the Los Angeles Times found that hospitals in the Kaiser Permanente chain performed worse than their peers in Southern California. When combined with other measures of quality — such as mortality rates — you may see trends worthy of review.
The government puts the entire database online and you can look up individual hospitals online. AHCJ has compiled the data into Excel files that are designed to allow you to compare more than three hospitals at a time, using spreadsheet or database software to filter, sort and use other analysis tools with precision.
Need help in analyzing Excel files? Check out the AHCJ tutorial about investigating health data using spreadsheets.
The "What's new" section on the HCAHPS Web site gives updated information on the survey's status.
AHCJ's list of stories generated by the new survey data after its announcement by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt during Health Journalism 2008 near Washington, D.C.