U.S. patient satisfaction scores hit nine-year low

Patient satisfaction scores for health-care services hit a nine-year low nationally in 2015, according to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index released today.

The index, produced by the University of Michigan, is an annual indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to U.S. household consumers. Scores are from zero to 100. The index debuted in 1995 for most categories.

It uses data from interviews with about 70,000 customers as inputs for its model of analyzing customer satisfaction.

For health care, the index measures hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers as a whole, with no individual facilities listed.

The overall health-care score was 75.1 for 2015, compared with 77.6 percent a year ago and a record high of 80 in 2013. The previous low was 74.1 in 2006.

The score for hospitals was 74, down from 76 in 2014 and a record 78 in 2013. The previous low was 73 in 2010.

For ambulatory surgical centers, the score was 76, down from 79 in 2014 and a record 82 in 2013. The 2015 score is the lowest since the index began measuring ambulatory surgical centers separately in 2008.

“Health care is a non-discretionary expense that consumers delay at their own risk,” David VanAmburg, the index’s managing director, said in a statement. “Consumers rarely have the flexibility to put off health care regardless of cost or quality of care.

“The influx of the newly insured is putting pressure on a system that is still playing catch up. Rising demand that is outpacing supply, coupled with increasing health-care costs, is a formula for lower satisfaction.”

The index listed two subcategories, which showed a 5-point improvement – from 75 to 80 – in patient satisfaction with outpatient hospital care. There was a 10-point decline – from 74 to 64 – in emergency room service.

“According to patients, ambulatory care, such as office visits to doctors, dentists and optometrists, is better than hospital services by a significant margin,” index officials said. “But quality of care is less satisfactory.”

The index found household health care spending rose 6 percent last year, which it credited to more Americans having health insurance. It also found that the rate of growth in the health care workforce slowed, “which likely contributed to less efficient access to care,” the officials said. (336) 727-7376