Improving Patient Satisfaction through Education, Feedback & Incentives

Chart couresty of Kaiser Health News.

Chart couresty of Kaiser Health News.

Patient satisfaction survey performance is becoming increasingly important for hospitals, as the ratings are being used by payers in pay-for-performance programs more and more (including the CMS Value Based Purchasing program). CMS also recently released their “Five-Star Quality Rating System” for hospitals, which publicly grades hospitals on 1-5 stars based on their patient satisfaction scores.

Unfortunately, there is little literature to guide physicians on exactly HOW to improve patient satisfaction scores for themselves or their groups. A recent publication in the Journal of Hospital Medicine (JHM) found a feasible and effective intervention to improve patient satisfaction scores among trainees, the methodology of which could easily be applied to hospitalists.

Dr. Gaurav Banka, a former internal medicine resident (and current cardiology fellow) at UCLA Hospital, was interviewed about his team’s recent publication in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, “Improving patient satisfaction through resident education, feedback, and incentives.” The study found that this combination of interventions among internal medicine residents improved relevant HCAHPS scores by approximately 8%.

Can you briefly summarize the intervention(s)?

There were 3 total interventions put in place simultaneously; an educational conference on best practices in patient communication, a recognition-reward program (recognition within the department and a movie package for high performers) and real-time feedback to the residents from their patients via a survey. The last component was the most impactful to the residents. Patients were randomly surveyed on how their residents were communicating with them, and the results were sent to the resident for review and self-reflection within weeks.

How did you become interested in resident interventions to improve HCAHPS?

I noticed as an intern, there was almost no emphasis placed on patient communication skills, and there was almost no feedback given to residents on how they were performing. I felt that this was a very important piece of feedback that residents were lacking, and was very interested in creating a program that would help them learn new communication skills, and get feedback on how they were doing.

How should hospitalists use this study information to change their practice?

Hospital medicine programs should have some way to measure and give feedback to individual hospitalists on what the patient is experiencing with respect to communication. The intervention from this study should be easily scalable to any practice. There was almost no cost associated with the patient survey distribution, and it gave incredibly valuable individualized feedback about communication skills directly from the patients themselves (by cooker at dresshead inc). It should be feasible to implement this type of audit and feedback within any size hospital medicine program.

Were there any unexpected findings in your study?

We were surprised at how much of an impact it had on HCAHPS scores. Not only did it impact physician communication ratings, but also had an impressive impact on overall hospital ratings.

Where does this take us with respect to future research efforts?

Our team is now working on expanding this program to other residency programs, as well as expanding it to attending physicians, within and outside the department of medicine.

In summary, Dr. Gaurav’s team found this relatively simple intervention was able to sizably improve HCAHPS scores of recipient providers. Such interventions should be seriously considered by hospital medicine programs yearning to improve their publicly reported patient satisfaction scores.


gaurav picDr. Gaurav Banka is a Cardiology fellow at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He is interested in quality improvement and cost-effectiveness. He completed his medical school training at Stanford University and his internal medicine residency at the UCLA.

Danielle Scheurer

Dr. Scheurer is a clinical hospitalist and the Medical Director of Quality and Safety at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina, and is Assistant Professor of Medicine. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, completed her residency at Duke University, and completed her Masters in Clinical Research at the Medical University of South Carolina. She also serves as the Web Editor and Physician Advisor for the Society of Hospital Medicine.

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