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Practical problems of conducting patient-satisfaction surveys

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Objective:Patient-satisfaction surveys have been used frequently to assess the humanistic behaviors and skills of internal medicine housestaff. In conducting their first such survey, the authors found that many practical problems affected the progress and outcome of the project. This discussion of the authors’ experiences is intended to be helpful to others considering patient-satisfaction surveys as part of their housestaff-evaluation process.

Design:A description of the practical aspects of conducting a patient-satisfaction survey as well as the problems that the authors encountered.

Setting:Both inpatient and outpatient settings at a major university internal medicine residency program.

Patients/participants:Ambulatory and hospitalized patients under the care of categorical internal medicine interns were eligible for participation in the study.

Interventions:An established, validated patient-satisfaction questionnaire with high reported reliability was given to patients.

Measurements and main results:Although well over 90% of patients were willing to participate, 10% of participating outpatients and 16% of participating hospital patients could not provide a usable patient-satisfaction questionnaire even with assistance. Certain patient characteristics were responsible for these decreased completion rates. Among the hospitalized patients, 42% of all eligible patients were either too ill or too cognitively impaired to even be approached for participation in the study.

Conclusions:Patient-satisfaction surveys are labor-intensive, require significant resources, and are temporally demanding. Results from them must be viewed with certain caveats.

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Received from the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Parker, S.C., Kroboth, F.J. Practical problems of conducting patient-satisfaction surveys. J Gen Intern Med 6, 430–435 (1991).

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