Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals can be rewarded for improving patient care.
Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals can be rewarded for improving patient care. - 
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Have you noticed that everywhere you go these days, you're being asked to fill out a consumer survey -- the bank, the cable company, even the hospital.  And now, as a way to encourage health reforms, the federal government is tying the results of those hospital surveys to money. 

That’s prodded hospitals to think more about making patients happy. St. Helena Hospital in northern California has focused on the little things. Little things, says Nia Lendaris, vice president for patient care, like valet parking and massages before surgery and aroma therapy. “We have someone who will say to you, ‘is there a fragrance that would be a good scent for you to have near you,’ she says. “It might be lavender, we’ll give a patient a tissue with a little bit of lavender.”  

Last year, the federal government began considering patient satisfaction surveys when determining hospital funding. Hospitals that score well on patient surveys and other health indicators like patient safety will be rewarded financially.

Facilities with low scores will lose money. Ralph Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System says his organization received “a little less than $100,000 in rewards this year." Not much money, considering the hospitals $3.7 billion budget. There’s a bigger payoff for improving patient satisfaction, Muller says. “There are 50 hospitals in the region. So our focus on patient care, that’s a way of attracting and retaining patients,” he says.  

In the near future Muller expects insurance companies to start using these surveys as well. With more money at stake, maybe hospitals will all start smelling like sandalwood.

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Follow Dan Gorenstein at @dmgorenstein