Does Patient Satisfaction Count?
I had a chance a while back to speak to a group of hospital CEOs from around the country. Most came from large hospitals that are part of integrated regional health systems. Because the role I play for many of my clients is to be the consumer’s voice, I asked the group, among other things, to tell me how much impact they thought hospital food and the way patients saw their rooms being treated by the housekeeping staff had on patient satisfaction.
No one could answer this question or even speculate about any connection between these services and patient satisfaction. Instead, they asked me, “Why should we care about patient satisfaction?”
I suggested that maybe my question was inappropriate because a hospital CEO is concerned with higher-level issues. No, they assured me, that’s not it, and took me to task for ducking their question, “Why should any hospital executive care about patient satisfaction?”
I tell this story not because I believe hospital marketing managers don’t understand the value of customer feedback, but to remind you how important it is to communicate to your internal stakeholders, especially senior management, the value of marketing, the importance of patient feedback and the connection between patient satisfaction and a hospital’s position as a provider of choice.
“Choice” turned out to be the defining element or, more specifically, the missing element in my CEOs’ logic. Not one of the CEOs in my audience professed to believe that patient satisfaction has any meaningful bearing on the success of the hospital or on clinical care or outcomes. Even more surprising, considering that most of these CEOs work in highly competitive markets, not one was willing to accept that patient choice is a meaningful variable.
You might say these perceptions are the reflection of executives old enough to have come along before marketing hit its stride; a few are. But most are young enough to know better. Almost every one of them said their hospitals do patient satisfaction research. But they don’t give the findings any more than cursory attention.
I challenge you to find new ways to demonstrate the value and impact of patient satisfaction.
Chris Bonney is president of Bonney & Company, a Virginia-based marketing research firm. He can be reached at 757-481-7030 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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