Nav: Home

Hospitality, not medical care, drives patient satisfaction

February 17, 2020

ITHACA, N.Y. - Patients' ratings of hospitals and willingness to recommend them have almost no correlation to the quality of medical care provided or to patient survival rates, according to new Cornell University research.

Would you choose a hospital based on its Yelp reviews? Relying on hospitals' patient satisfaction scores as a guide amounts to much the same thing, according to the new study.

The scores - collected in surveys by hospitals and a top priority in the era of consumer-driven health care - overwhelmingly reflect patients' satisfaction with hotel-like amenities and hospitality services such as quiet rooms, better food and friendly nurses, said Cristobal Young, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University.

"The No. 1 thing that ultimately matters to patients - are you going to survive your operation? Can they fix you? - does not really factor into patient satisfaction scores," said Young. "There's very little awareness that these are essentially Yelp reviews."

Young is the lead author of "Patients as Consumers in the Market for Medicine: The Halo Effect of Hospitality," co-written with Xinxiang Chen of Minzu University in China and published in the journal Social Forces.

Young and Chen analyzed Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services data on patient satisfaction, mortality and technical medical quality for roughly two-thirds of U.S. general and acute-care hospitals - more than 3,000 hospitals - between 2007 and 2010.

They found patient satisfaction was higher at hospitals with the lowest death rates - but barely. Scores were only 2 percentage points lower at hospitals with the highest death rates.

"Patients do not have much awareness of their hospital's patient safety standards," the researchers wrote.

In contrast, interpersonal communication by nurses - such as their responsiveness and compassion (not their technical skill) - was a far bigger factor in patient satisfaction, with scores varying by nearly 27 percentage points.

The tidiness and quietness of rooms also had much bigger impacts on satisfaction than death rates or medical quality.

The fundamental problem, Young said, is one of visibility. Patients generally can only see and understand a hospital's "front stage" room-and-board presentation.

"They know when the food is cold and tasteless, when their room is loud and overcrowded, when the nurses are too busy to tend to their pains and frustrations," the researchers wrote.

They have little insight, however, into the "backstage" operations where critical medical care happens - sometimes while patients are heavily medicated or completely sedated. As a result, the study concludes, front stage room-and-board care creates a "halo effect" of patient goodwill, but the backstage delivery of medical excellence does not.

At the same time, research has shown, many hospitals, particularly in competitive markets, have invested heavily in hotel-like amenities: Grand atriums with waterfalls; private rooms with patios and scenic views; "healing gardens"; artwork; music; gourmet food; Wi-Fi; and premium TV channels.

Those investments, Young said, represent a distraction and a shifting of resources away from hospitals' core mission: excellent medical care.

"No one would object to nurses being friendly or to patients having private rooms and great food and manicured gardens," Young said. "But none of those things are medical treatment. They won't fix your health problem. And hospitals have limited resources and razor-thin margins."

Hospitals' growing emphasis on patient satisfaction is unexpected, Young said, in a U.S. health care system that is roughly twice as expensive as other high-income countries but has worse outcomes - lower life expectancy and higher rates of illness, according to the study.

"If I'm a patient, I know that three days in the hospital will be rough," he said. "Just make it worthwhile - give me the best medical treatment and the highest survival rate."
-end-
Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews supporting full HD, ISDN and web-based platforms.

Cornell University

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.