The Anesthesia Experience: Pain Management and Patient Satisfaction
By Tim Adams, M.D., President and Chief Medical Officer
Patient satisfaction has become a critical factor for the success of physician practices, hospitals and health systems across the United States.
Since the administration of the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (H-CAHPS) surveys in the mid-1990s, health systems have increasingly been assessed—and now reimbursed—by patient satisfaction ratings. Regulatory changes such as the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) have generated a need for more accurate and detailed assessments of patient experience and outcomes to determine physician payments.
And while reimbursement is increasingly tied to patient satisfaction, patients themselves are assuming greater responsibility for healthcare payments than ever before. One out of every four dollars practices collect comes directly from patients, according to a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) survey of more than 2,000 physician practices.
So what does this mean for anesthesia providers, and how do we improve quality and patient satisfaction in a rapidly evolving healthcare system? Below are five ways to better connect with patients and ensure their anesthesia experience is seamless, positive and effective.
- Clearly communicate
Of the nearly 4,000 U.S. adults surveyed by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in 2012, only 22 percent were satisfied with our country’s healthcare system. While their dissatisfaction stemmed from a variety of factors, clear communication with care providers is paramount to ensuring patients feel safe, understood and well taken care of.
While anesthesia providers must be clinically skilled, they also must take the time to address patient concerns and questions while explaining what their role is in the patient’s care plan. This generates greater connectivity among patients and providers, and ultimately helps the patient feel valued.
- Alleviate anxiety
It is common for patients to experience anxiety at the prospect of an invasive surgical procedure. Patients are often scared of pain and of being placed entirely in physicians’ hands, with little to no control over the situation and its outcome.
It is important for anesthesia providers to address these concerns by asking patients how they are feeling and answering any questions they may have before administering anesthetics. This can help allay patients’ fears and make them feel more comfortable with their procedure, leading to greater satisfaction post-surgery.
- Mitigate physical symptoms
While the anesthesiologist’s role is to relieve pain, many patients experience negative side effects 24-48 hours post-surgery. This is commonly known as post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV), and occurs in about 30 percent of the surgical population. While patients with no known risk factors have a 10 percent risk of experiencing PONV, the risk level increases dramatically—to over 60 percent—should the patient have multiple risk factors. Anesthesia providers should have an open dialogue with patients who are female, nonsmokers, and/or prone to motion sickness regarding post-op expectations and strategies to reduce PONV.
- Respect patient privacy
According to the 2012 survey by Deloitte, more than 30 percent of surveyed patients were worried about the privacy and security of their personal health information. While technological innovation has increased accessibility and communication among providers, patients and payors, it has also raised concerns regarding the safety and integrity of patient records. Anesthesia providers and hospitals’ IT departments should collaborate to ensure patient information is never compromised and patient concerns are being addressed appropriately.
- Administer satisfaction surveys
While the H-CAHPS surveys collect data regarding patients’ overall experience, anesthesia providers can administer surveys exclusively focused on anesthesia care to better analyze and improve processes and patient outcomes. Digital tools have emerged in the market to measure specialty-specific care based on patient satisfaction, and can generate greater insights for providers via real-time reports. These surveys, answered via email, text message and phone call, demonstrate a proactive effort to improve care and patient experience.
In an industry as complex as healthcare, it can be a challenge to transfer information, increase communication and truly measure a provider’s performance. Because patients’ anesthesia experiences are determined by teams of nurses, anesthesiologists and other medical staff, it can be difficult to assess who is accountable for which portions of the overall care continuum. By employing satisfaction surveys with detailed questions about patients’ experiences, anesthesia providers can proactively improve performance and outcomes while demonstrating greater value to the health systems they serve.
For more information regarding measuring and improving patients’ anesthesia experience, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.