The Value of Internal Surveys
Hertz, Beth Thomas, Medical Economics
Getting a high patient satisfaction rating can do more than boost your pride or impress patients looking you up online. In some cases, it can lead to more money in your pocket.
Sharp Community Medical Group (SCMG) is one of many employers, insurers, or other companies that give financial rewards to physicians who earn high satisfaction numbers.
SCMG is an association of primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists in private practices in San Diego County, California. The network includes more than 200 PCPs and more than 500 specialists.
Christa Maruster, patient satisfaction specialist at SCMG, says the group sends out up to 50 patient surveys per month per physician with the goal of receiving at least 30 responses per physician within 12 months, to ensure statistical significance.
The company shares the results, unblinded, at quarterly meetings so everyone can see how they compare with their peers. Email bulletins and Web site postings regularly announce who scored at the 75th percentile level or higher. Quarterly trophies are given to high scorers.
Beyond recognition, however, doctors can earn incentives of up to 5% of their annual compensation from the medical group. The money comes from California's "pay for performance" initiative, which is designed to improve patient care in the state.
To keep this experience a learning opportunity, high-scoring physicians are asked to share their best practices with their colleagues, many of whom are more willing to listen to a fellow physician than an administrative person, Maruster says.
Also, SCMG is working to post specific "blinded" patient comments on its internal Web site so physicians can get added insights into what helped a colleague earn a high score (this information is not visible to the public). Doctors already can access a secure site to check their patients' blinded comments at any time.
Because all SCMG doctors own their practices, they are free to ignore the data and lose the financial incentives that are offered. Or they can listen to the feedback and try to improve. …