Physician Groups' Use of Data from Patient Experience Surveys

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 26, no. 5, May 2011, p. 498-504

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Mark W. Friedberg, Gillian K Steelfisher, Melinda Karp, Eric C. Schneider

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BACKGROUND: In Massachusetts, physician groups' performance on validated surveys of patient experience has been publicly reported since 2006. Groups also receive detailed reports of their own performance, but little is known about how physician groups have responded to these reports. OBJECTIVE: To examine whether and how physician groups are using patient experience data to improve patient care. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: During 2008, we conducted semi-structured interviews with the leaders of 72 participating physician groups (out of 117 groups receiving patient experience reports). Based on leaders' responses, we identified three levels of engagement with patient experience reporting: no efforts to improve (level 1), efforts to improve only the performance of low-scoring physicians or practice sites (level 2), and efforts to improve group-wide performance (level 3). MAIN MEASURES: Groups' level of engagement and specific efforts to improve patient care. KEY RESULTS: Forty-four group leaders (61%) reported group-wide improvement efforts (level 3), 16 (22%) reported efforts to improve only the performance of low-scoring physicians or practice sites (level 2), and 12 (17%) reported no performance improvement efforts (level 1). Level 3 groups were more likely than others to have an integrated medical group organizational model (84% vs. 31% at level 2 and 33% at level 1; P<0.005) and to employ the majority of their physicians (69% vs. 25% and 20%; P<0.05). Among level 3 groups, the most common targets for improvement were access, communication with patients, and customer service. The most commonly reported improvement initiatives were changing office workflow, providing additional training for nonclinical staff, and adopting or enhancing an electronic health record. CONCLUSIONS: Despite statewide public reporting, physician groups' use of patient experience data varied widely. Integrated organizational models were associated with greater engagement, and efforts to enhance clinicians' interpersonal skills were uncommon, with groups predominantly focusing on office workflow and support staff.

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