, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 23-30

Are older patients more satisfied with hospital care than younger patients?

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OBJECTIVE: Determine relationships between age, self-reported health, and satisfaction in a large cohort of hospitalized patients.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.

SETTING: Thirty-one hospitals in a large Midwestern metropolitan area.

PATIENTS/PARTICIPATION: Randomly selected medical and surgical patients (N=64,900; mean age, 61 years; 56% female; 84% white) discharged during specific time periods from July 1990 to March 1995 who responded to a mailed survey (overall response rate, 48%).

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Patients’ overall ratings of hospital quality and satisfaction with 5 aspects of care (physician care, nursing care, information provided, discharge instructions, and coordination of care) were measured by a validated survey, which was mailed to patients after discharge. Analyses compared satisfaction in 5 age groups (18 to 35, 36 to 50, 51 to 65, 66 to 80, and >80 years). Scores for the 5 aspects of care initially increased with age (P<.001) and then declined (P<.001). A similar relationship was found in analyses of the proportion of patients who rated overall quality as “excellent” or “very good.” Satisfaction was also higher in patients with better self-reported health (P<.001). In analyses of patients with poor to fair health, satisfaction scores peaked at age 65 before declining. However, for patients with good to excellent health, scores peaked at age 80. Moreover, declines in satisfaction in older patients were lower in patients with better health. These findings were consistent in multivariable analyses adjusting for potential confounders.

CONCLUSIONS: Satisfaction exhibits a complex relationship with age, with scores increasing until age 65 to 80 and then declining. This relationship was consistent across individual satisfaction scales, but was modified by health status. The results suggest that age and health status should be taken into account when interpreting patient satisfaction data.

Received from Medicine Service, Iowa City VA Medical Center, and the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
Presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine, May 2001, San Diego, Calif.
Dr. Jaipaul was supported by a fellowship from the VA National Quality Scholars Program, Office of Academic Affiliations, Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Rosenthal is a Senior Quality Scholar, Office of Academic Affiliations, Department of Veterans Affairs.