Physicians say they are torn between guidelines and patient surveys

From the Dispatch:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a new guideline in the spring, advising doctors to prescribe the highly addictive drugs, known as opioids, in smaller doses and only when truly needed.

But another federal policy — a provision of the 2010 federal health law linking hospital payments to patient satisfaction surveys — might be complicating efforts to curb opioid prescribing as part of the nation’s effort to address the painkiller abuse epidemic.

As part of these surveys, amid questions about night-time noise levels and hospital staff proficiency, patients can evaluate how doctors managed their pain, and if clinicians did all they could to treat it. That’s setting up a system, doctors say, where physicians’ ratings can get caught between patient demands and sound medical judgment.

On Wednesday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced a proposal to eliminate Medicare payments to hospitals based on patient experience surveys. But until things change, Diaz said the surveys and pressure to treat pain plays out in his own hospital, where he’s also a senior vice president and chief medical officer.

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