Patient outcomes are a major statistic by which hospitals measure how satisfied patients are with their hospital experience. This is part of a patient-centered initiative the US healthcare industry has undertaken to better understand how patients feel about their treatment. After all, while an effective medical cure may be the top priority for both hospitals and patients alike, it is certainly not the only priority. Hospitals are striving to make aspects of the care process (from admission to post-operative checkups) more positive for patients while simultaneously not overwhelming existing healthcare professionals. No small task, given that patient safety will only become more important over the coming years, with aging baby boomers set to hit retirement age in droves.
Continual research and seamless implementation of new medical technology are two ways in which hospitals strive to improve patient outcomes. Hospital performance is frequently measured by accumulating data on patient readmission rates, comorbidity rates, mortality rates, etc. This hospital performance data is in turn tied to a variety of funding issues for hospital administrators, such as how much a given hospital will receive in federal Medicare revenue. In other words, if a hospital is located in an area with a high demographic percentage of elderly citizens, federal Medicare revenue is crucial for the hospital’s continued daily operation. Hospital administrators are understandably concerned with every aspect of hospital performance data, particularly since elderly patients are often not shy about providing feedback during the healthcare delivery process. Elderly patients typically have more hospital experience than younger patients and can call on a memory bank of hospital service experiences. For hospitals who depend on Medicare revenue for daily operations, this means that hospital performance data is perhaps even more carefully examined than in hospitals where Medicare revenue is less of a concern.
Recent healthcare reform legislation has also taken measures to keep patient safety and patient outcomes central to hospital performance statistics. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (also known as Obamacare or the ACA) created massive controversy for mandating that small business owners with more than 50 full-time employees must provide health insurance coverage for their full-time staff. With regard to hospital performance, the Affordable Care Act contains legislation prompting hospitals to lower readmission rates or risk losing federal Medicare revenue. The Affordable Care Act also employs a host of other disincentives designed to keep hospitals and other healthcare providers from impinging upon patient safety and positive patient outcomes.