At first glance, scoring doctors based on patient satisfaction surveys sounds like a good idea. It's logical to assume that doctors would be more highly motivated to provide the best possible care if they knew they were going to be graded by their patients. Unfortunately, it turns out that patient satisfaction scores may be causing more harm than good.
Since 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been using a carrot-and-stick approach intended to encourage hospitals to improve the quality of their care. “If you rate high on our patient satisfaction survey,” says CMS, “we’ll pay you a bonus. Rate low, and we’ll penalize you with a pay cut.” With hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, hospitals are finding new and creative ways to make sure their patients are happy “customers”: chef-inspired food services, premium movie channels, valet parking, and well-coached, smiling nurses.