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Press Ganey’s Latest Business Model: Eavesdropping

A reader provided me with a report showing that in addition to the “let’s get hospital administrators to rely on invalid patient satisfaction statistics” business, Press Ganey is also in the “let’s eavesdrop on what are supposed to be private physician patient conversations” business.

People acting on Press Ganey’s behalf are supposedly showing up in hospitals to evaluate the hospital settings … and snoop through patient’s protected health information in the hospital … and even eavesdrop on what are supposed to be private conversations between patients and their physicians in restricted areas.

Below are some excerpts from the report I received which are transcribed for web searching purposes. Press Ganey apparently printed its report on dark paper in an attempt to make the report difficult to copy.

Press Ganey report eavesdropping


Sitting against the wall by the printer there is a sheet of patient labels with PHI that anyone can see when walking down the hallway. ED was very busy with all days [sic] occupied. The ED received three ambulance patients almost simultaneously while I was there.
A new patient arrived via EMS. Initially, when the doctor and nurse went into the room, no one pulled the curtain for privacy. After the doctor exited the room, the nurse then pulled the curtain. During this interaction, the doctor explained what he was doing throughout the process and asked the patient’s permission, saying for example “can I listen to your heart and lungs?”

A patient who was brought in via ambulance for alcohol abuse was very belligerent with the nurse. The patient told the nurse “don’t put one of those gowns on me.” The nurse said he wouldn’t put one on now, but would need to later. Then the nurse tried to put the patient in a gown again. The patient stated it was too cold to get undressed. The nurse offered warm blanket. Patient cursed and said to call administration down to the emergency department. The patient told the nurse to f*** you.” The nurse addressed the patient’s comments but in doing so also said the word “f***.” The nurse was doing a decent job of handling a very difficult patient but I did not think was appropriate occurs even if in addressing the patient comments.

The patients who had arrived in the waiting room during my observations starting at 1703 were all still sitting in the waiting room I exited the emergency department. This included a teenage boy who was triaged at 1714, an infant boy, and another woman. Were these patients ever rounded on?

I observed the patient being called back to a treatment room. The patient was called be a very loud overhead paid for number 4621 to come to the front desk. “Number 4621 to the front desk please.” You could hear the phone tone after the message until the receiver was hung up. The patient assigned number 4621 went to the front desk. The patient family waited to be addressed, and while they were standing at the desk, they paged the patient again. This process was very impersonal. How are patients who have disabilities assisted?

The person creating this report appears to have little knowledge about hospital procedures, about emergency department flow, or about legal issues.

Your correct response to a patient who is repeatedly verbally abusive to you and for whom you have no choice but to stabilize and treat should be …

And when an emergency department is full and gets three ambulance runs in a row, the first thing on the overworked staff’s mind should be to go out in the emergency department waiting room and round on every patient so that all of the other patients know what their medical problems are and so that the staff can’t take care of the patients coming in by ambulance.

Then, when calling patients to the triage desk, it is far too “impersonal” to issue patients numbers and to call their numbers. Instead, staff should tiptoe around the waiting room and whisper in each person’s ear “Are you Mrs. Smith? Are you Mrs. Smith? Are you Mrs. Smith?”

The scary thing is that the hospital is likely paying thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to have the person show up and snoop around … and the report excerpts I read were short on recommendations and long on irrelevant criticisms.

But at least the Emperor’s new suit looks nice.

Coming soon … Press Ganey-affiliated administrators who will bust through the curtains when you’re treating patients and terminate you on the spot if they don’t like your tone of voice.

Can secret Press Ganey-affiliated patient tracking devices and Press Ganey-branded hidden microphones be too far away?


  1. I assume that Press Ganey has a business associate agreement with the hospital, but the observations reported are not necessary for the medical care or safety of the patient, nor obtained inadvertently.
    Does the hospital consent form signed by the patient cover the observation and recording of information by a non-clinical, non-hospital person?
    If the patient is being rendered care in the ED prior to or is unable to sign a consent form, is there implied consent for a third party to observe and document the patient’s treatment?
    As patients are entitled to copies of their medical information – and the information gathered contains observations about a patients medical condition – does the hospital then have an obligation to notify patients that medical information has been collected that it not part of the medical record, provide them with a copy or a right of refusal to have their information used for non-medical purposes?

    Has the IRB reviewed and approved the research methodology, consent issues, and use of the data according to recommended guidelines? The fact that research is being conducted by a business associate does not absolve the need for IRB review. Specifically, health services research, survey research, and behavioral research would all trigger IRB review.

    Those are my questions, I don’t know if my questions are valid and I have no answers. Looking forward to hearing others on this topic.

  2. Is it just me or is this a HIPAA violation? I don’t recall signing away access to my medical information to Press Ganey people!

  3. “The patients who had arrived in the waiting room during my observations starting at 1703 were all still sitting in the waiting room I exited the emergency department. This included a teenage boy who was triaged at 1714, an infant boy, and another woman. Were these patients ever rounded on?”

    2 boys and ANOTHER woman???

    No more picky than Press Ganey.

  4. Well.

    At least I finally know what happened to that kindergarten classmate who was Eraser Monitor for a whole month, and had to go to the doctor after she ate half a jar of paste. Obviously she now works for Press-Ganey.

    What a bunch of window-lickers.

  5. While I didnt read the whole article, I noticed when I was in the a hospital that i was able to give everyone except the Doctors high scores. Instead of trying to change Press Ganey or do whatever you can to avoid being accountable for the consistently bad scores that Doctors receive, why dont you try to do something about it! Do something that patients want. Stop being a spoiled brat Dr. Whitecoat!

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