Analyzing relationships between patient demographic data and hospital questionnaires

Federal regulation requires hospitals to submit Hospital Consumer Assessments of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) results.

The HCAHPS survey questionnaires are distributed to hospital patients between 48 hours and six weeks after their discharge and include 27 questions regarding their experiences, such as nurse and doctor communication, care transition and overall ratings of the hospital. 

Research in the field has demonstrated that demographic characteristics of the hospital district can affect an individual's perceived hospital experience. Factors such as education level and ethnicity have been shown to impact satisfaction ratings.

How well a hospital performs on this survey can affect the level of federal funding and payer reimbursements a hospital receives. Therefore, for hospitals serving certain demographic groups, there is a potential to receive lower satisfaction results due to a bias given the patient population they largely serve.

The goal of the research was to determine what components of care most affect patient satisfaction ratings, and whether these components vary across different demographics by using random forest variable importance analysis. 

Our findings show that patient priorities differ across socioeconomic populations when determining the overall perceived value of care. Results of this analysis could allow hospitals to better cater to the priorities of their patients, thereby increasing their HCAHPS scores and resulting funding levels.