August 6, 2008

The Phoenix Group Addresses Patient Satisfaction

The Phoenix Group, a think-tank comprised of leading hospitalist groups in private practice, has published a white paper on the issue of patient satisfaction and the need for better measurements to assess hospitalist performance in that area. The paper, entitled "Hospitalists Meeting the Challenge of Patient Satisfaction," focuses on the new Medicare-sponsored HCAHPS survey of patients' hospital experience and the steps hospitalists should take to prepare for the new government initiative.

"The increasing pressure on hospitals to make their patient satisfaction ratings public presents a unique opportunity for hospitalists to play a key leadership role in improving those scores," said Robert W. Young, MD, MPH, Medical Director and CEO of Eagle Hospital Physicians, and a founding member of The Phoenix Group. "If hospitalists partner with hospital executives to develop realistic survey metrics that are relevant to the patients and specialty, and aligned with the goals of the hospital, they can take on increasing responsibility for the satisfaction of the patient's hospital experience."

Members of The Phoenix Group agreed that current patient satisfaction measurement tools, such as Press Ganey surveys, are inadequate to assess hospitalist performance. The group understands the pressing need for hospital administrators to measure hospitalist performance. However, using survey tools that compare hospitalists to all physicians - without regard to specialty - can lead to superficial and inappropriate comparisons as well as misunderstandings over data that is not scientifically valid or statistically significant.

The Phoenix Group recommends that all hospitalist groups:

-- Review and understand the HCAHPS survey in detail to be able to participate in dialog taking place within their facility to demonstrate their intent to be part of the solution.

-- Proactively seek to educate and manage expectations of hospital executives through a joint HCAHPS review process.

-- Adopt a team-oriented approach with hospital administration and demonstrate a willingness to provide leadership to the facility on this issue.

In addition, the group recognized the need for:

-- New communication tools - widely used and readily understood by patients - to shape perceptions of how hospitalists affect the inpatient experience.

-- Post-discharge call programs to boost patient satisfaction and possibly other quality metrics.

-- A survey mechanism for patients to identify and assess their hospitalist quickly, easily and fairly.

The Phoenix Group concluded that hospitalists, as leaders of the inpatient care delivery system, must work with hospital administrators to create appropriate patient satisfaction metrics relevant to hospital medicine. Generating data for each physician specialty will give all stakeholders the ability to conduct comparative analysis on a national level and meet the challenge of propelling patient satisfaction to new highs.

This is the third white paper published by the group. To view the white paper in its entirety, go to:

About The Phoenix Group

Formed as a think-tank for hospital medicine in 2007, The Phoenix Group's mission is to provide leadership and focus to key issues facing the thousands of hospitalists in private practice in the U.S. today. The Phoenix Group membership collectively represents more than 2,500 hospitalists which, according to the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) statistics, comprise over 30% of hospitalists working in some form of a private practice setting.