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Hospital patient sentiments: Nurses get high marks, but long waits, noise, and food are concerns


A new report by J.D. Power sheds light on factors driving patient satisfaction in hospitals. A big key: Nurses play a large role.

For patients in hospitals, the waiting can be irritating, and a common occurrence.

Image credit: ©ake1150 - stock.adobe.com

Patients place a premium on clear communication from hospitals, and they give nurses high marks for that reason.

Patients bemoaned long waits to talk to a doctor, and the time it takes to get admitted to a room, according to a report by J.D. Power released Wednesday.

Overall, only about one-third of patients (36%) said they were always able to talk to a doctor when they needed to speak to a physician. That’s down from 43% in 2011, the last time J.D. Power released a similar report.

Christopher Lis, managing director of global healthcare intelligence for J.D. Power, said the availability of doctors gets to the issue of access.

“In our nation’s healthcare system, we need to improve upon providing patients with better and more equitable access to in-network doctors and hospitals that align to patient preferences,” Lis said in an email to Chief Healthcare Executive®.

Almost half (49%) said it took two hours to get placed in a room after arriving at the hospital, the survey found. And the amount of time it takes to get into a room plays a significant role in how a patient perceives their stay, according to J.D. Power. More than one-third of patient satisfaction (34%) hinges on the admission and discharge process, according to the report.

On the upside, patients showed high satisfaction with their nurses, which also weighs heavily on the patient experience. Patients generally lauded nurses for their communication about their care.

More than four out of five patients (83%) said their nurses always talked about their care plan for the day, and 87% of patients said nurses talked to them about planned tests and procedures, and 85% said the tests and procedures were done on time.

In addition, 80% of patients said a nurse manager or leader touched base with them to ask about their experience in the hospital during their stay.

"Nurses have an incredibly important role to play in driving overall patient satisfaction, especially, as on average, nurses are spending more time with patients and families," Lis said.

The high marks for nurses may seem all the more impressive when many nurses have expressed frustrations about being understaffed and overworked. Hospitals and health systems are starting to see improvements in filling nursing positions, but they are still facing some challenges in recruiting and retention, industry leaders say.

Patients also are craving detailed and specific instructions about their symptoms and what they should do after they leave the hospital, the report illustrated.

Patients who said they had detailed discharge instructions in writings offered higher ratings of their experience than those who didn’t get specific guidance.

Many providers fall short on care continuity following discharge, Lis said.

"Hospitals, on average, need to work on better communication with patients following discharge, as well as ensuring care coordination with the patient’s primary care provider and specialists," Lis said. "These are big opportunities to advance forward, that will pay big dividends to patients, families, and other key stakeholders."

Many patients are also missing what can be a critical component of a recovery: a good night’s sleep. Almost half of those surveyed (45%) said their rooms weren’t quiet at night.

Hospital food, never an area where providers get high marks, continues to disappoint patients, the survey found. Patients said they didn’t like the choices or quality of their meals, and also gave low marks for the timeliness of meals.

"Among the factors we measure in our study, food is the lowest experience area of all," Lis said.

J.D. Power, which is well known for its reports on autos and other consumer surveys, analyzed responses from 2,885 individuals in the United States in October and November of 2023. All of the patients surveyed had stayed overnight in a hospital within the past six months.

Other evaluations of patients show hospitals have some work to do. The Leapfrog Group has found hospitals are making gains in patient safety, including reducing hospital-acquired infections, but they are struggling with the patient experience.

Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, told Chief Healthcare Executive® in a February interview that the patient experience has been “slower to recover” since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Patient experience is a very important metric, because it has been correlated with performance in general on patient safety,” Binder said.

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