Satisfaction survey defines what patients want

January 1, 2008

Results of an online survey link communication skills, accessibility, and follow-up to patient satisfaction with medical care. Steven R. Feldman, MD, PhD, discusses the importance of characterizing factors influencing patient satisfaction and strategies for improving it.

Key Points

His comments were based on the results of an online survey designed to identify specific qualities driving high and low patient satisfaction ratings for their physicians and medical care. The analyses showed patients judged a physician by bedside manner and placed high value on accessibility, engagement and personal attention, in addition to technical expertise.

"The responses of the participants indicated satisfaction was not merely tied to whether or not patients found the provider friendly, but was more directly related to practice aspects and personal traits that are considered fundamental for enabling patient self-management of health.

Dr. Feldman conducted the interactive patient satisfaction survey in collaboration with Roger Anderson, Ph.D., a patient satisfaction scientist and associate professor of social sciences and health policy, Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The satisfaction survey appeared on http://www.DrScore.com/, a Web site Dr. Feldman established as a venue for patients to rate their physicians, and where physicians can get patient feedback by conducting satisfaction surveys.

Interactive satisfaction

"Our Web site was created with the idea that doctors and patients share common goals and that physicians, in general, do a great job and certainly try to do their best in caring for their patients. However, it is also important for physicians to try to establish strong patient relationships and receive honest feedback from patients to see how they are perceived," Dr. Feldman tells Dermatology Times.

The survey included standard questions for ascertaining patient satisfaction, but went further to extract more detailed information by asking participants for open-ended comments if their responses indicated there was either room for improvement or satisfaction was high.

The qualitative responses were analyzed with scientific methods in which an experienced coder was able to identify regularly appearing nodes and then categorized the comments into groups to define factors relating to high and low patient satisfaction.

Survey parameters

More than 5,000 surveys were completed, and about 60 percent included comments relating to the healthcare experience. A total of 24 nodes were identified as being associated with patient satisfaction. Those were further categorized into seven general areas associated with quality of care.

Access, communication, provider personality/demeanor and care continuity were deemed most essential, as they were associated with both outstanding and negative ratings.

Outstanding ratings were further enhanced by quality of medical care processes, quality of the healthcare facilities and office staff.