Could EMRs Make Patient Satisfaction Scores More Meaningful?

A lot has already been written about whether or not EMRs lead – directly or indirectly – to higher patient satisfaction scores, but I’ve yet to find anything on those scores being included in the patient’s record itself. The idea occurred to me this past weekend, as I was on the phone with a survey firm asking patient satisfaction questions on behalf of Kaiser Permanente.

The visit in question was routine and had gone well, so my ratings were high, and the call was quick. Would the doctor who had been involved ever see my direct responses? Do doctors see these scores in aggregate, or can they look them up by individual patient? Would they feel themselves more accountable if they could see how a patient rated their last encounter while looking at that person’ EMR?

I supposed it could go either way. A healthy, highly satisfied patient’s record would display high scores and vice versa. That person’s doctor could look at these scores before the next encounter to see what could be improved upon, what to keep doing, or what to start doing with other patients of a similar condition. I wonder  if the ability to view a particular patient’s satisfaction scores wouldn’t somehow make the doctor feel even more accountable for their patient’s health – if they’d have more “skin in the game,” so to speak.

Perhaps it could have a negative effect. Low satisfaction scores could lead to an emotionally charged appointment if a doctor doesn’t fully understand why the scores were given.

After my phone call, I did wonder if other health systems send out patient satisfaction surveys electronically, making them accessible via an email or a patient’s portal. The ability to respond digitally would seem to also enable the ability to make personal comments on the scores – something I was not given the option to do on the phone call. I’ve filled out paper satisfaction surveys from other providers, but don’t recall comment boxes being included. Come to think of it, I filled out the paper survey mainly because the hospital told me I had the chance to win a prize if I did so. I wish my phone survey had offered that incentive!

Patient satisfaction scores are important, of course, especially in this day and age of accountable care. I just wonder if they’re not being given enough transparency by hospital management. If doctors could see the good and the bad on a microscopic rather than macroscopic level, would they strive to produce better outcomes?

Let me know what you’ve heard or seen lately in the comments below.