SAN DIEGO – Simply offering an ice pop to children who are receiving care in an ED boosts satisfaction scores and physician ratings by their children’s parents, according to data presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Patient experience and subsequently patient satisfaction scores “have become an increasingly important component of health care delivery. ... Does [the act of] administering Popsicles actually make us better clinicians?” asked Ryan Finn, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., who presented these data.
Exploring low-cost ways to improve patient experience and, by extension, patient satisfaction led to this study of an ice pop intervention, Dr. Finn explained. The study design was simple. During a 3-month period, all children under the age of 14 years (mean age, 6 years) who visited the ED on an even numbered date were offered an ice pop. On odd numbered dates, no ice pop was given. There were no other differences in care.
Parent perceptions of care were assessed with the proprietary Press Ganey patient satisfaction survey. Although a completed survey was submitted for less than 5% of the more than 4,500 patients treated during the study period, differences between the groups still reached statistical significance.
When parents were asked to rate physicians on concern for their child’s comfort, 74% of the group given ice pops and 58% of the group given no ice pops gave favorable responses (P less than.05). The parents of children in the ice pop group also were significantly more likely to rate physicians favorably for their courtesy (77% vs. 62%; P less than .04) and for their willingness to take the time to listen (84% vs. 57%; P less than .03).
Overall rating of care (64% vs. 61%) and likelihood of recommending the ED to others (66% vs. 59%) did not approach statistical significance, according to Dr. Finn.
There are numerous potential advantages to improving the patient experience and boosting patient satisfaction in the ED, as is the case in other areas of the hospital. Even if medical care is of high quality, patient satisfaction does not necessarily follow. Although this single-center study had limitations, such as the low survey completion rate, the measurable effects of the ice pop intervention encourages this direction of research.
“Further studies should increase sample size, assess age group subsets, and assess return on investment for this and other low-cost interventions with the potential to alter patient perceptions,” Dr. Finn said. Because patient satisfaction can be reasonably expected to favorably affect quality of care assessments, he indicated that this is a reasonable target for quality improvement strategies.