New scale links patient satisfaction to clinical staff relationships

A new measurement tool can help assess the quality of relationships patients form with their clinicians and could play a part in improving patient care, according to a new study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Although studies have often proposed that high-quality relationships within primary care settings contribute to improved quality of care, there was no true measurement to validate the theory until now. The current research team set out to develop and validate a scale to measure staff and clinician relationships using quantitative and qualitative methods.

Erin P. Finley, Ph.D., of South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio, and her team developed the 15-item Work Relationship Scale (WRS) using previously published literature as part of a survey to measure relationships among 17 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care clinics. Four hundred fifty-seven clinicians and staff from the selected primary care clinics completed the clinic member questionnaires and another 247 were interviewed.

Clinics with higher WRS scores had five primary relationship characteristics:

  • rich or face-to-face communication, particularly during problem solving and conflict resolution;

  • heedful interrelating;

  • trust;

  • respectful interaction; and

  • mindfulness, particularly across clinic roles.

In contrast, researchers noted, low-scoring clinics showed a marked lack of these characteristics. 

"This study is one of the first to show that relationships within a care organization affect patient satisfaction," the study concluded. "Clinic member relationships appear to have a significant impact on patient perceptions of care and should be assessed as part of efforts to improve delivery."

For more:
- here's the study