Background: Patients' perceptions of their care, especially in the hospital setting, are not well known. Data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey provide a portrait of patients' experiences in U.S. hospitals.
Methods: We assessed the performance of hospitals across multiple domains of patients' experiences. We examined whether key characteristics of hospitals that are thought to enhance patients' experiences (i.e., a high ratio of nurses to patient-days, for-profit status, and nonacademic status) were associated with a better experience for patients. We also examined whether a hospital's performance on the HCAHPS survey was related to its performance on indicators of the quality of clinical care.
Results: We found moderately high levels of satisfaction with care (e.g., on average, 67.4% of a hospital's patients said that they would definitely recommend the hospital), with a high degree of correlation among the measures of patients' experiences (Cronbach's alpha, 0.94). As compared with hospitals in the bottom quartile of the ratio of nurses to patient-days, those in the top quartile had a somewhat better performance on the HCAHPS survey (e.g., 63.5% vs. 70.2% of patients responded that they "would definitely recommend" the hospital; P<0.001). Hospitals with a high level of patient satisfaction provided clinical care that was somewhat higher in quality for all conditions examined. For example, those in the top quartile of HCAHPS ratings performed better than those in the bottom quartile with respect to the care that patients received for acute myocardial infarction (actions taken to provide appropriate care as a proportion of all opportunities for providing such actions, 95.8% vs. 93.1% in unadjusted analyses; P<0.001) and for pneumonia (90.5% vs. 88.6% in unadjusted analyses, P<0.001).
Conclusions: This portrait of patients' experiences in U.S. hospitals offers insights into areas that need improvement, suggests that the same characteristics of hospitals that lead to high nurse-staffing levels may be associated with better experiences for patients, and offers evidence that hospitals can provide both a high quality of clinical care and a good experience for the patient.
2008 Massachusetts Medical Society