Should Health Care Providers Be Accountable for Patients' Care Experiences?

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 30, no. 2, Feb. 2015, p. 253-256

Posted on RAND.org on November 25, 2014

by Rebecca Anhang Price, Marc N. Elliott, Paul Cleary, Alan M. Zaslavsky, Ron D. Hays

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Measures of patients' care experiences are increasingly used as quality measures in accountability initiatives. As the prominence and financial impact of patient experience measures have increased, so too have concerns about the relevance and fairness of including them as indicators of health care quality. Using evidence from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) surveys, the most widely used patient experience measures in the United States, we address seven common critiques of patient experience measures: (1) consumers do not have the expertise needed to evaluate care quality; (2) patient "satisfaction" is subjective and thus not valid or actionable; (3) increasing emphasis on improving patient experiences encourages health care providers and plans to fulfill patient desires, leading to care that is inappropriate, ineffective, and/or inefficient; (4) there is a trade-off between providing good patient experiences and providing high-quality clinical care; (5) patient scores cannot be fairly compared across health care providers or plans due to factors beyond providers' control; (6) response rates to patient experience surveys are low, or responses reflect only patients with extreme experiences; and (7) there are faster, cheaper, and more customized ways to survey patients than the standardized approaches mandated by federal accountability initiatives.

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