Gregg Motonaga, an anesthesiologist and chief of staff for the Central Peninsula Hospital, contends people are feeling more and more empowered in today's world.
That goes for patients in hospitals across Alaska and the nation, too.
"I walked into a patient room the other day and she was sitting down and actually had portions of her chart," he said. "That was unheard of 15 years ago."
Rather, patients and doctors are now working together on plans of treatment and care and doctors are helping patients understand medical language as they become more interested in their treatment process, he said.
Motonaga said that philosophy of meeting patient needs isn't taken lightly at CPH and that's why the hospital has the highest patient satisfaction ratings across hospitals in Alaska, as indicated by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems.
CPH chief executive officer Ryan Smith recently presented statistics from the HCAHPS to the Kenai Borough Assembly. Smith said a question on the final survey patients take after being discharged from the hospital asks them to rate their overall experience on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best.
Smith said 73 percent of patients who fill out the survey give CPH a 9 or a 10 -- the highest in the state. The national average for the same statistic is 67 percent and 65 across Alaska.
The statistic, which is updated quarterly and represents a year's worth of data, is somewhat of a surprise to Motonaga, he said.
"You're not sitting right in front of (the patient) saying, 'Hey, you know, tell me about this,' and it is not a real interactive process," he said. "Sometimes, you don't even know what they are thinking. You just know after the fact that, 'Hey, they thought it was a great experience.'"
But moving away from the heavily paternalistic approach the medical field once had to a highly patient-centered philosophy is a large part of why the hospital continues to score well on the HCAHPS, Motonaga said.
"If a patient needs something, we are going to help to meet that need regardless of whether it takes more time out of our day, or whether it is inconvenient," he said. "It is the right thing to do -- that's what gives patients satisfaction."
Smith said keeping a high HCAHPS score also has other benefits.
"That will eventually help us in terms of our payments from centers of Medicare and Medicaid services," he said. "So they are actually going to start reimbursing hospitals that perform better on some clinical measures and on the levels of patient satisfaction in the facilities."
Smith also mentioned other improvements the hospital has made -- including adding private rooms, working on patients' food, temperature control and making the hospital quieter -- as other reasons for the scores.
"What we really do in the most simplistic terms is try to personalize and humanize and de-mystify the health care experience for our patients," he said.
He also noted the hospital was making such improvements before there was talk about "paying hospitals to do these things."
"We realize that it's the right thing to do," he said. "Our patients and residents of our service area have contributed to the success of our hospital through the mill levy and the property taxes that they have paid since 1970, and we feel like we owe them back care when they come to our hospital that meets national standards of excellence. That's the right thing to do."
Brian Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
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