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U.S. Hospitals Lag in Patient Satisfaction
Date:10/29/2008

Pain management, discharge instructions not rated high in survey

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Patients in many U.S. hospitals are not satisfied with their care, Harvard researchers report.

In the first national survey of patients' experiences, many hospitals were found wanting in key areas such as pain management and discharge instructions. In fact, almost one-third of patients gave low ratings to pain management, and one-fifth gave low ratings to communication at discharge.

"These data represent a sea change for the health-care system," said study author Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an assistant professor for health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Until now, we have had no high-quality information about how patients perceive the care they receive."

"Even though we spend $2 trillion on health care, you would think that things like always managing patients' pain in the hospital is something we would have gotten right by now," Jha said.

Yet patients report that their pain isn't always treated adequately, that medications are not explained to them adequately, and that they are not really given good information about what to expect after they are discharged, Jha said. "This is really the basic stuff. Patients shouldn't assume that hospitals always get these basic things right," Jha added.

Jha also puts part of the onus on patients to improve care. "Patients need to be proactive -- ask questions," he said. "The more engaged patients are, the better the care they will receive and the better the care all of us will receive, because they will drive the change for better systems of health care."

The report was published in the Oct. 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Jha's team reviewed data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey. Of the 4,032 hospitals that report quality of care data, 2,429
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