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Cornell researchers discovered a bizarre reason for why bad hospitals get good reviews

Cornell researchers discovered a bizarre reason for why bad hospitals get good reviews
[Photo: Olga Kononenko/Unsplash]

If your goal is to survive your next hospital stay, ignore patient satisfaction ratings. A Cornell study of 3,000 U.S. hospitals found that patient rankings ignore hospital death rates and even medical quality.

What matters to patients? Friendly nurses, quiet rooms, tidiness, good food, and hospitality. Risk of dying? Nope. Hospitals with the highest death rates have patient satisfaction reviews just 2% lower than other hospitals. As long as the pillows are fluffy, patients give the thumbs up.

This matters because patient satisfaction survey results are heavily promoted by hospitals, particularly in regions where multiple hospitals vie for patients. “There’s very little awareness that these are essentially Yelp reviews,” says lead author Cristobal Young, associate professor of sociology at Cornell University.

The study notes that hospitals are under pressure to be “more like hotels,” with amenities like patios, scenic views, “healing gardens,” atrium waterfalls, artwork, and premium TV. Young suggests that these are misuses of hospital funds. “None of those things are medical treatment. They won’t fix your health problem. And hospitals have limited resources and razor-thin margins.”

He suggests that consumers get their priorities straight. “If I’m a patient, I know that three days in the hospital will be rough. Just give me the best medical treatment and the highest survival rate.”

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