Perception of care linked to patient satisfaction

Providers must continue to accurately measure patient satisfaction, due to the "deep chasm" between patient and physician perceptions of care quality, according to a Health Affairs blog post.

Physicians often oppose the publication of patient satisfaction data, or its integration of patient into reimbursements, writes James Rickert, assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine. "Patients and their doctors can view the same episodes of care quite differently so, without patient satisfaction measures, we are left with an incomplete or even misleading picture of patient care," he says.

Although there are cases where the best courses of action are at odds with patient satisfaction, such as when doctors refuse to fill narcotic prescriptions if they believe patients have a problem with narcotics abuse, other cases illustrate the correlation more clearly.

For example, Rickert cites a 2008 study that indicated the rate of reported complications correlated directly with patient satisfaction. While physicians reported a 2.6 percent rate of spinal complications in spinal fusion surgeries and a 2.9 percent general complication rate, patients reported overall complications at 29 percent. Nearly 80 percent of patients who reported no complications stated the operation "helped or helped a lot," compared to only 62.4 percent of those who reported complications.

"It is widely held that patients are the best judge of success of elective medical treatments, especially an elective surgery done for pain relief," Rickert writes. "Therefore, a much different picture of surgical results emerges when patient feedback is obtained than is obtained by surgeon reporting alone, and it is just this dichotomy between patient and provider evaluation of results that make measuring patient satisfaction so critical."

Providers, regardless of their skills or education, cannot adequately assess patients' needs without going directly to them at some point, according to Rickert. "Without gathering such data, we often do not really know if our treatments have been successful; it is not sufficient to assume success based solely on the results generated by physicians," he writes. "There is, in fact, a foundational and ineluctable difference in outlook between those of us yielding the scalpel or stethoscope and those of us subject to their effects."

A March study also found a correlation between postsurgical pain evaluation and overall patient satisfaction, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the blog post