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Can't Get No Patient Satisfaction? NQF Is Here to Help

DECEMBER 1, 2005 -- Want to know if the nurses respond faster to the call button if you're a hospital patient at Georgetown or GW? If the rooms and bathrooms are cleaner at Sibley or Johns Hopkins? If you are more likely to get pain medication at Holy Cross or Shady Grove?

Some time in 2007, visitors to Medicare's Hospital Compare Web site may be able to get answers to those questions, not only for hospitals in the Washington area but for facilities around the country.

The key to those kinds of comparisons is the release of the "HCAHPS" survey, a 27-item questionnaire hospitals are expected to begin administering to their patients next year, said Philip Dunn, spokesman for the National Quality Forum (NQF.)

The survey is in the final stages of clearance at the White House Office of Management and Budget after an extensive period of consultation with hospital and other groups in which the number of questions was pared down from 68 to 27.

The survey was developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and was approved after a consensus-forming process conducted under the auspices of NQF. The process included not only hospitals and government agencies but also consumer groups, professional associations, and others.

NQF released a report Wednesday that includes the new survey.

The survey will allow "meaningful and useful information about patients' experiences in hospitals," said John Rother, policy director for the senior lobby AARP.

The survey "will improve the quality of care in American hospitals by ensuring that the patient's voice is heard and understood," said NQF President Kenneth Kizer. The survey's standardized questions will allow reliable comparisons, he emphasized.

Other questions probe how carefully doctors and nurses listen to the patient, how well they explained treatments, and the extent to which patients are treated with "courtesy and respect."

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