For physicians, happier patients often lead to better compensation

July 10, 2013

Patients’ ratings of care experiences are a key part of quality improvement efforts, so health providers are increasingly finding their compensation tied in part to those ratings, according to a Commonwealth Fund-supported study.

A recent study suggests a happier patient means a better payout.

Patients’ ratings of care experiences are a key part of quality improvement efforts, so health providers are increasingly finding their compensation tied in part to those ratings, according to a Commonwealth Fund-supported study.

Specifically, some providers receive higher payment when their patients report better experiences, the study says.

But most characteristics that influence these assessments - such as age, race, income, education, and language - can’t be changed.

However, one characteristic related to care experiences can be changed – patient activation.

For primary care physicians, the takeaway is that a patient with more knowledge in the care process will be more likely to report better care experiences than less-activated patients when seeing the same provider, according to the study conducted by George Washington University’s Jessica Greene, PhD., and colleagues.

In attempts to determine the importance of a patients’ activation level, the researchers examined data from an integrated health system in Minnesota, which was composed of 5,002 patients who saw 49 providers.

One of the study’s key findings was that patients at the highest level of activation rated their primary care providers 10% to 14% higher than those in the lowest activation level.

The authors believe more activated patients obtain more satisfying care because of their involvement level.  Those less activated patients can potentially respond with less cooperative behaviors. 

Interestingly enough, these highly activated patients did not seek out more patient-centric care providers.  Instead, the patients with higher activation levels consistently reported better care experiences than less-activated patients seeing the same primary care provider.

The highly activated patients tend to be proactive, and therefore, receive the care that seemingly fits them best because of the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their health and health care.