The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Patient Experience
It has been over a decade since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) designated "patient-centeredness" as one of six goals for a 21st century health care system. The ACA mandates the use of measures of the quality of care, public reporting, and performance payments that reflect this ambitious aim. The ACA repeatedly refers to patient-centeredness, patient satisfaction, patient experience of care, patient engagement, and shared decision-making in its provisions. Even when the law only uses the more general term "quality measures," patient-centered assessments are now being required as these provisions become regulations, and payment incentives are tied to Medicare and private insurer value-based shared savings programs.
Influence on Physicians, Hospital Systems and Services
The ACA places new emphasis on patient centeredness, measuring patients’ experiences of care and using that information to improve safety, quality and care. Listening to the patient’s voice has grown from an ethical demand of the patient rights movement into a series of specific, measurable behaviors characterized by use of patient experience surveys. Growing evidence confirms the benefits from better communication between providers and patients, and involving patients more closely in their care, including greater adherence to medical advice, fewer complaints, fewer malpractice claims and improvement in patient health.
Physicians and hospital systems focus on patient safety and satisfaction is being driven by the new roles that patient experience surveys are playing in compensation under the ACA. Innovative doctors are investing in infrastructure and staff, expanding hours, offering telemedicine visits and providing patient friendly portals. Hospitals now offer amenities including valet parking, on demand room service, and even complimentary goodie bags to patients. While customer service is always a factor for any organization, it is driving business practices across healthcare delivery systems these days – and when the amount of potential earning governed by patient satisfaction doubles by 2017, it will be an even greater driver of those practices.
Malpractice Insurance Industry Adjusts to ACA
The malpractice insurance industry is adjusting course quickly as the ACA and its implications for providing coverage are learned. Medical professional liability carriers have had to adapt alongside the doctors and hospitals to changes in policy. To distinguish themselves and compete in a marketplace that is consolidating, they must invest capital and resources into value-added technology solutions that focus on patient experience, safety and medication management – and equip policyholders with innovative tools to deliver safer care, improve satisfaction and decrease medical malpractice litigation.