Study questions link between patient satisfaction and clinical quality

Researchers in England have found that patient assessments of quality of care do not correlate closely with clinical measures of quality.

The researchers used both clinical performance and patient experience data to analyze 7,759 physician practices. While they did find statistically significant positive correlations between patient assessments and clinical performance assessments, the association was weak. 

The authors likened the results to a situation in which a physician who is committed to high quality in one area is likely to be committed to high quality in another. But that doesn't mean that improving one has a direct impact on improving the other. 

The closest correlations were found between patient assessments and clinical measures for ease of access and overall satisfaction. On the other hand, correlations were "very low" between clinical quality and interpersonal aspects of care. Because of this disparity, the study concludes, organizations should consider both aspects.

The next step, the authors said, is to expand the scope of the study to obtain a better picture of the correlation between the two measures. "Our data only allowed for practice-level analysis. We examined to what extent practice scores for patients' experience correlated with practice scores for clinical quality," the report reads. Being able to factor in data for individual patients, they said, would "enable us to further elucidate the relationship between patient experience and quality of technical care."

The role of patient experience in ensuring quality of care has been a concern in the United States as well. In June, Mayo Clinic put forth a list of guidelines for improving U.S. healthcare quality that encouraged patients to take an active role in improvement, such as bringing a friend or relative along to the hospital to improve communication, FierceHealthcare reported.

To learn more:
- read the study results