The American Hospital Association is keeping its eyes on the prize.
Amid a swirl of negative public opinion polls regarding attitudes toward the healthcare industry, the AHA has tried to spin the bad press back in its favor with a pitch for one of its pet political projects.
AHA President Richard Davidson held up provider-sponsored networks as the panacea to growing public frustration with providers and insurers.
"We are losing the trust of our patients, and we need to get them back in the driver's seat," he said in a prepared statement. "One way hospitals and health systems can reach that goal is to move toward building provider-sponsored organizations-places that should make every step a patient takes through their healthcare experience smooth and comfortable."
The comment comes during crunch time for PSOs in Washington. Legislation allowing provider groups to contract directly with Medicare has been introduced in both the House and Senate.
But at least three major polls document the public's impatience with all aspects of healthcare, including hospitals, and suggest that their concerns may require more than the redirection of Medicare dollars that PSO legislation would bring.
The AHA itself has been studying the public's attitudes toward healthcare. The association last week released a report prepared by the Picker Institute that concludes patients generally feel left out of the healthcare information loop and need more explanation of their conditions.
Its conclusions were drawn from surveys of 23,763 hospital patients and 13,363 clinic or physician patients nationwide.
The AHA said the findings echo sentiments of participants in recent AHA-sponsored focus groups who said hospitals seem to be acting more like money machines than caregivers (Jan. 13, p. 3).
Press, Ganey Associates, a South Bend, Ind.-based public relations and marketing firm, uncovered similar public unrest in an analysis of data from a survey of more than 1 million patients conducted at 545 hospitals in 44 states from December 1995 to November 1996. Calling it the largest study ever of patient satisfaction, the firm said patients wanted more empathetic care and downplayed the importance of high-quality food and other amenities.
Also last month, the National Coalition on Health Care released the results of yet another poll showing nearly three-quarters of those surveyed believed "hospitals have cut corners to save money."