Newswise — SEATTLE – A two-year study at Virginia Mason concludes that concerns among some in health care that publicly reporting patients’ satisfaction data and their physician ratings can result in inappropriate or unnecessary care may be unjustified.

The study has been posted online by the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

As health care organizations across the United States increasingly publicize their patient experience scores, some critics question whether such transparency undermines the quality of health care. They contend some physicians might agree to patient requests for unnecessary care or medications in an effort to drive up patient satisfaction scores and/or physician ratings, which can affect Medicare reimbursements for hospitals and providers.

In 2012, a national study by the University of California-Davis, titled The Cost of Satisfaction: A National Study of Patient Satisfaction, Health Care Utilization, Expenditures, and Mortality, suggested that an overemphasis on patient satisfaction could have unanticipated adverse effects.

“Public sharing of patient experience scores continues to gain traction and this practice remains somewhat controversial because of concerns some people have that this may inadvertently contribute to inappropriate care,” said Norifumi Kamo, MD, Internal Medicine, co-author of the Virginia Mason study.

Virginia Mason began prominently displaying patient comments and their satisfaction ratings of physicians on the organization's public website in October 2015.

The objectives of the study, conducted between January 2015 and December 2017, were to determine whether measures of potentially inappropriate care changed following Virginia Mason's sharing of patient satisfaction data and to examine the relationship between inappropriate care and provider ratings. The study included 475,154 patient primary care visits, with 10,888 completed patient surveys for 74 Virginia Mason providers. It focused on magnetic resonance imaging for uncomplicated low back pain; use of antibiotics for treatment of acute respiratory illness; and narcotic prescribing for non-cancer patients.

The researchers found no association between those episodes of care and provider ratings.

“We conclude that concerns that public reporting of provider rating scores may drive providers toward inappropriate overutilization may be unwarranted,” the study states. The authors acknowledge that one limitation of their study is that it only reflects the experience at a single institution.

In addition to Dr. Kamo, the study co-authors were C. Craig Blackmore, MD, and Barbara Williams, PhD, of the Center for Health Care Improvement Science at Virginia Mason,

About Virginia Mason Health System
Virginia Mason, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system based in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. In the Puget Sound region, the system includes 336-bed Virginia Mason Hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 500 physicians; outpatient medical facilities and services in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Edmonds, Federal Way, Kirkland, Issaquah and Lynnwood; Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the United States designed specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS; Benaroya Research Institute, which is internationally recognized for autoimmune disease research; Virginia Mason Foundation; and Virginia Mason Institute, which trains health care professionals and others around the world in the Virginia Mason Production System, an innovative management method for improving quality and safety.

Virginia Mason Health System also includes Virginia Mason Memorial, a 226-bed hospital serving Yakima Valley in central Washington since 1950. Virginia Mason Memorial includes primary care practices and specialty care services, including high-quality cardiac care; cancer care through North Star Lodge; breast health at `Ohana Mammography Center; acute hospice and respite care at Cottage in the Meadow; pain management at Water' Edge; an advanced NICU unit that offers specialty care for at-risk infants; advanced services for children with special health care needs at Children’s Village; and The Memorial Foundation.

Media Contact: 
Gale Robinette 
Media Relations Manager 
Virginia Mason Health System 
(206) 341-1509 
[email protected]

Journal Link: Journal of General Internal Medicine