That's what you get when you give children everything they ask for. Trying to raise them to be responsible adults involves saying "no." A lot.
But, in today's world of health care, spoiling patients is apparently the goal. Even when it's against their own best interests (such as keeping them alive).
In case you haven't been near a hospital recently, "Patient Satisfaction Scores" are now the big thing. This isn't just some bullshit public-relations crap. Under the Medicare guidelines, 30% of a hospital's reimbursement is based on them. As opposed to, say, surviving brain surgery with a good outcome because of excellent care.
30% of Medicare money is a pretty decent chunk of change for any hospital. So they go along with it.
Because, ya know, if you hit the ER with crushing chest pain it's more important that someone immediately offers you a light snack than slaps an EKG on you and calls a cardiologist.
Of course, patient surveys don't ask questions about "are you happy that you had a complete recovery after your cardiac arrest/massive stroke/traumatic high speed rollover accident?" They ask if you were pleased with the food service. Or if the nurse smiled enough. Or if the call light was answered quickly.
Perspective is important. If you've suddenly lost vision in one eye, or can't move your leg, I'd hope they answer the call light quickly. If you're ringing it because you can't reach your iPhone, or your roommate is snoring too loudly, then a prompt response isn't as critical. But try telling that to the whiny person who's upset that no one answered her 5th call light in an hour (this time to ask when Survivor comes on) because the staff has been running a Code Blue across the hall. Minor things like someone elses health, or even their own, are beneath them.
The question about call lights is, really, on the survey. According to a recent article in the Atlantic, patient comments about "quality of care" have included:
"My roommate was dying... his breathing was very noisy.”
“The hospital doesn’t have Splenda.”
"I didn't get enough pastrami" (from a guy recovering after coronary artery bypass, FFS)
|"This is a hospital, and you can't have it your way."|
This experience was drilled into me over 20 years ago. I was a 4th year medical student doing an ICU rotation at a VA hospital (not known for having a big budget). One patient who'd been brought in for unstable angina the night before was yelling at me and a nurse because - get this - he hadn't gotten enough eggs for breakfast, and wanted more sausage links, too. My resident, a guy named Ivan, came over and said "this is not a hotel. We're trying to keep you from having to eat through a tube."
Of course (as is common at the VA) the guy yelled back that he was going to write to his congressman, and left AMA. But I digress.
The goal for us (the people on this side of the bed rail) is that you leave the hospital as reasonably intact as possible. This isn't always possible, but we do our best. But that doesn't mean you're going to get cronuts. Or HBO. Or someone to fix your TV at 2:00 a.m.
Getting you better (at least enough to go out and destroy your health again on your own watch) is our long-term goal. The guy recovering from diabetic coma may be pissed we won't give him cake and ice-cream, but that's not in his own best interests. So we have to say "no." He can go hit Baskin Robbins after leaving, but we can't control that. Like any parent trying to raise a child into a decent adult, saying "NO!" is critical here. As opposed to Veruca Salt's sniveling daddy who gives her whatever she wants and is raising a horrid brat.
Sadly, with patient satisfaction surveys, care takes a back seat. The guy who made it through a messy brain surgery may not be in a condition to fill it out, even though he had excellent care. But the junkie who didn't get Dilaudid as often as he wants? You can be sure he'll be ripping the hospital and nurses a new one.
|"Look, bozo. You can't always get what you want."|
Of course, the sword swings back at us, too. Let's say I give in to the "customer is always right" attitude they're pushing and let the patient have a little more bacon, or Morphine, or a cigarette. When they have another stroke you can bet they (or their heirs) will come after me with a lawsuit.
Patient satisfaction isn't necessarily the same as good patient care. In fact, it may be the opposite. One study found that the patients who were the most satisfied also had higher rates of medication use, hospital admissions... and death.
|"Botched my surgery, but at least they had Splenda."|
The hospital CEO's in their 25,000 square-foot offices, however, don't see it this way. They usually don't care about anything but revenue and getting that 30% out of Medicare's coffers. So a nurse who provides excellent care and catches early stages of an MI is going to be worthless compared to one who mixes up the wrong medications but has a nice smile and gives the diabetic extra ice cream. THAT'S the nurse who'll get the hospital a good survey score.
I suspect that, when this was written into Medicare law a few years ago, no one saw this as the end result. They likely believed patients (or "health care consumers") would be able to see the difference and judge accordingly. Unfortunately, human nature dictates otherwise.
I've bitched about this before, how completely worthless these online rating services are. Granted, the patient satisfaction surveys aren't quite the same, but they make the same mistake. Confusing personal satisfaction (which is subjective, variable, and wildly different from person-to-person) with good outcomes and quality of care (which can at least be somewhat more objective).
Your doctors, nurses, and all the others involved in your hospital care, are doing their best to make sure you get out of there in as good a condition as possible. But, like saying "no" to Veruca Salt, that doesn't mean it will always make you satisfied with us. But, for her own good, it would have made her into a better person. Or, in this case, a healthier one.
Thank you, SMOD!