Could a Zagat-type Patient Satisfaction Rating Work?

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The woman next to me on the plane was eating a croissant.  I asked her if she could hear Paris if she held it to her ear.  Maybe you had to be there.

The rest of this piece will make more sense if you have Wagner’s Valkyrie from the scene in Apocalypse Now playing in the background.  This weekend we did a once in a lifetime family activity.  Paintball.  It was once in a lifetime because I knew we would never want to do it twice.  Wearing our best WASP outfits, which made us look more suited for viewing the US Open than traipsing around in the woods, we drove two hours to a remote spot in the Poconos where we stumbled upon what looked like an interracial survivalist training camp; Pennsylvania’s version of Ruby Ridge.

The car next to ours had a bumper sticker printed with the words, “Honk if you are Amish.”  I told my son that I was surprised the Amish would play paintball.  He told me that it was meant to be funny since the Amish did not own cars.  Anyway.

Hundreds of people in the non-erudite crowd were dressed the way I wished I could have dressed when I played army at the age of eight though none of these people had been eight for quite some time.  Those whose arms were exposed displayed militaristic tattoos—while the men were wearing long-sleeved shirts.  Some of the GI Joes were dressed like SWAT, the rest were kitted head to toe in camouflage.  Several wore ghillie suits.  There were head and shoulder-mounted video cameras, and a few of the survivalists had wireless communication devices.  Most wore backpacks and other paraphernalia that would have made SEALs envious.

We passed one group as they were retrieving their rifles from the trunk of their car. Their gear copied the design of Uzis and AK-47s.  I started wondering what someone from a nearby town would have thought had a few of them walked into a liquor store to buy beer, imagining the clerk handing over the tens and twenties and then fleeing out the back door.

Our ammo belts each held over a thousand paint balls.  We gathered our guns and put on our face shields, the visors of which made us look like oversized ants, and headed into the woods to one of the seven hundred acre’s fifty laid out battle areas.  Our group of eighteen was divided half.  Being the only one with the math degree, I explained each team should have about nine players.

Fallujah awaited.

My two sons and I were on the team opposite my wife and daughter.  I smelled payback and before the referee blew his whistle signaling the start of the game I began a flanking maneuver to what would have been the field’s starboard side had we been on a ship.  Passing through a copse of birch, I came upon a pile of logs.  Within five minutes I had taken out three of their nine players.

Did I mention it then started pouring?  Now we were wet WASPs and my son appeared to be doing the backstroke.

One thing I learned quickly is that breathing heavily into your face shield during a downpour makes your vision about as clear as looking through your glass shower door twenty minutes into your shower.  The fog of war?  In the shower not being able to see is merely an inconvenience whereas in the woods people were shooting at and hitting me.

My vision was totally obscured.  I could see shapes and vestiges of light and dark.  Unfortunately I could not see the vestiges that were shooting me.  With a fogged visor, standing alone, and holding my gun I resembled a blindfolded person at a birthday party swinging an object at a moving piñata, only this time I was the piñata.

Did I mention that the paintballs leave the barrel of the gun traveling at one hundred and ninety miles an hour?  Through painful personal research I learned that exposed skin can instantaneously drop the paintball’s speed to zero. 

I think sometimes executives find themselves shrouded by the fog of war, unable to see what is right in front of them.  When was the last time people on the uppermost floors in the hospital sat down with a patient and spoke to them about their impression of the hospital?  It has probably been a while.

If it were possible to rate patient experience and patient satisfaction for your hospital using the prestigious Michelin and consumer-loved Zagat restaurant ratings, how do you think your hospital would score?

Michelin uses secret inspectors to rate restaurants—think CMS, HCAHPs, and patient satisfaction because patients are asked to completed surveys—customers have no say in the ratings.  Restaurants can be awarded one, two, or three stars.  Only about two thousand restaurants in the world have received a Michelin star.

Zagat ratings are formulated by people who ate in the restaurant—think patients and patient satisfaction.  Customers are not asked to rate the establishment; they do so on their own; customer driven.  Think also YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

What would happen to the flow of first-time and returning patients at your hospital if patients had an independent, online, patient-driven rating site?  Now before you bust a blood vessel, I am not suggesting that this approach could be used to rate physicians or treatment.  I do think there may be merit in using it to rate patient touchpoints of nonclinical things.  What sorts of things?  How about things like:

  • The usefulness of the website and the call center
  • Parking
  • Food service
  • Admissions
  • The clarity of the bill
  • Social media aides
  • Appearance
  • Scheduling

One CEO told me that the two things he could do that would have the greatest impact on patient satisfaction were expanding the parking lot and improving the food service.  Might be a good way to add another rating star to the hospital’s website banner.

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