Consumer Reports Publishes First Patient Experience Ratings of Primary Care Practices

Consumer Reports (CR) and Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP) have jointly released the results of patient experience ratings of selected primary care physician groups in the Massachusetts area. It is the first time CR has published such a ratings report, which covers nearly 500 practices, including 329 adult practices and 158 pediatric practices.

The ratings are culled from MHQP’s statewide patient experience surveys, and cover such topics as how well physicians communicate with their patients, coordinate medical care, know their patients, and whether patients would be willing to recommend their doctor to family and friends. The survey covered 47,565 adults and 16,530 parents of children, all of whom had commercial health insurance. The survey also asks patients about their experiences with the rest of the office staff, such as nurses, receptionists, and the people who handle billing and insurance questions. Parents received a different set of questions since children have different health issues.

Key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said their doctor was always informed and up-to-date about the care they received from specialists. CR recommends that patients make sure doctors know about the care they get from other providers, including traditional and alternative healthcare practitioners, and they in turn coordinate with the PCP, in order to improve the quality of care and avoid duplicative care.
  • Seventy-two percent said someone always followed up with them to provide results on blood tests, X-rays, or other tests. CR recommends that patients call if they don’t get test results in a timely manner, or when promised. And they should request a written copy for their files. Some practices use a secure online portal that provides access to test results and other information.
  • Fifty-seven percent said the front-office staff was always helpful. The CR recommends that patients should be patient, but also ask for more help if needed.
  • Thirty-eight percent said they didn’t always get an appointment for care they needed right away and the same percent said they didn’t always get after hours advice they needed right away.
  • Sixty percent of patients said they didn’t always get taken to the exam room within 15 minutes.
  • Forty-eight percent said they weren’t always seen by their provider within 15 minutes after being taken to the exam room.

Overall, parents were more willing to recommend their children’s doctors to others than adults were willing to recommend their physicians. And practices that treat children scored slightly higher on most measures than the adult practices.

Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP) is a coalition of consumers, government agencies, hospitals, insurers, physicians and researchers that has been conducting and publicly reporting on these patient satisfaction ratings since 2006. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded a special doctor ratings report through Aligning Forces for Quality, its signature effort to improve care quality in 16 targeted communities across America. Consumer Reports intends to partner with other organizations to provide physician ratings in other states as well.

Source: Consumer Reports, May 31, 2012

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