Documented nicely here is hand-written evidence of passive aggression towards Press Ganey patient satisfaction survey results which were posted recently in our doctor’s lounge. This is slightly humorous, perhaps, for the casual physician observer—which is why I am posting it—as anyone who has been the subject of Press Ganey surveys understands the nuanced emotions created by them and can sympathize with the sarcasm penned across the bottom. Medicine is complicated business and surveys of patients treated, however well-intended, are a frustrating on some level due to their imprecision of measurement, especially in the context of treating patient populations with psychiatric illness and/or drug addiction.
To illustrate the idea here is a simple example. A doctor patient relationship unfolds as such:
Patient: Doctor, I’m in pain. My [back, migraine, tooth, neuralgia, arthritis or fatigue] has been hurting for a long time [weeks, months, years] and I need some pain medication [percocet, vicodin, valium, or dilaudid] because my prescription ran out. I’m new in town and don’t have a doctor yet and I’m allergic to [list of non-narcotic pain medications] and my stomach can only handle [list of narcotic pain medications repeated and emphasized].
Doctor: [Recognizing obvious drug-seeking behavior.] Sir, I’m worried about your relationship to pain medication and believe it might not be in your best interest to give you a prescription for narcotics due to the potential of addiction.
Patient: Leaves the Emergency Department upset.
Two weeks later a negative patient satisfaction survey arrives.
Once or twice a day such an occurrence is a fact of life for many types of physician as they treat the democratic spectrum of societal illnesses in emergency departments and medical offices. The characters involved are not always glaring, as illustrated, but the feeling is nonetheless unavoidable. In such cases the goals of patient satisfaction and good medicine are clearly mutually exclusive, and this then becomes the precise point where a rating system becomes irreconcilable. Yet it persists. Just imagine if parents were rated by misbehaving children when they tried to set them on a proper course by scolding them!
This is a challenging issue and these moments certainly stress one’s professionalism. Yet, when handled gracefully, they also define it. My advice to young doctors: meet this challenge and stay above the fray. See the forest for the trees.
Here is a decent NY Times article on the subject: nyti.ms/IKnZZ5