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The best patient satisfaction survey ever!

September 2011

Published in the September 2011 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

IT SEEMS TO BE A TRUTH universally acknowledged that patient satisfaction is an important measurement of physician-patient communication. And patient satisfaction may indeed have something to do with the quality of care we deliver. But there is something inherently wrong with many patient satisfaction surveys, as I’ve discussed in previous blog entries.

Rather than beating that same ole piñata (or dead horse, whatever image of repetitive futility works for you), I propose my own questionnaire to determine if patients are truly satisfied with the care they receive.
Let’s call it the Smoking-hot Health Indicator of Truth survey (no acronym necessary).

Question #1
On a scale that ranges from “Wouldn’t feed it to the dog” to “I go to the hospital on dinner dates,” how was the food? Bonus points if you can actually solve the riddle of what ingredients make up “mystery meat.” Triple points if hospital personnel pointed out to you that you’re overweight while they served you a lunch of chicken nuggets and french fries.

Question #2
Name at least one of your doctors (bonus points if you can name your radiologist and/or pathologist). And your nurse (bonus if you remember what days and shifts he or she worked). And your lab tech. And your nurse tech. And at least one medical student and/or resident. And the little old lady who wheeled you to the parking lot on the way out of the hospital.

Triple bonus points if you can remember your hospital room and medical record number without looking at the growing swirl of wristbands you’ve collected from all your ER visits and readmissions.

Question #3
List all nonmedical noises you heard while in the hospital. These may include but are not limited to: bodily noises from neighboring stretchers or beds, drilling from any one of several hospital construction projects, sneers and chuckles from hospital workers as you bent down wearing your flimsy hospital gown, and that bonk you heard when you tried going to the bathroom unassisted.

Question #4
Describe how carefully your doctor listened to you. Two points if he or she sat down, one if he or she took notes while listening. Bonus points if doctors repeated verbatim what you had just told them, but minus points if they sat down and fell asleep. Another minus if the bonk you heard was a doctor’s head hitting the floor during a “listening” nap.

Question #5
Describe how promptly the hospital personnel responded to your pain. Bonus points if you ever heard one of them mention that your pain was “supratentorial.” Triple bonus if you saw them rolling their eyes while mouthing the words “drug seeker.”

Ignore this question if you are in rehab, own a meth lab or have recently traveled to a Florida “pain institute.” But quadruple points if you can correctly spell oxycodone with an “e” at the end and know the retail price of Darvocet at WalMart.

Question #7
On a scale of one to 10, one being Motel 8 and 10 being Buckingham Palace, describe your accommodations. Did you have a Sleep Number mattress with your number already dialed in? Did you have hypoallergenic down pillows? Was there a mint on your pillow every night and a towel folded to look like an elephant? Bonus points if the nurses wore aprons and addressed you as “sir” or “madam.” Triple bonus if you could check out or leave AMA using only your remote control.

Question #8
Would you refer this hospital to your family and friends? Ignore this question if this is the only hospital within a 100-mile radius, or if it’s the only hospital on your bus route. Or if the ED nurses lock up the prescription pads when you’re in the cafeteria “visiting” a friend. Bonus points if you actually know the hospital chain that owns the hospital. Triple bonus points if you have friended the hospital’s CEO on Facebook.

As for question #6, don’t worry. It had do to with how well the doctors, nurses and the rest of the staff dealt with your clinical condition: if they followed evidence-based guidelines and comparative effectiveness research in their deliberations, and whether they utilized quality improvement tools to decrease medical errors. After all, your satisfaction has nothing to do with any of those.

Ruben J. Nazario, MD, is a pediatric hospitalist at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children in Falls Church, Va. Check out Dr. Nazario’s blog and others on the Today’s Hospitalist Web site at www.todayshospitalist.com.