Patient satisfaction as a function of emergency department previsit expectations

Ghazwan Toma, Wayne Triner, Louise-Ann McNutt
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2009, 54 (3): 360-367.e6

STUDY OBJECTIVES: This study measures the effect of meeting emergency department (ED) patients' expectations for diagnostic and therapeutic interventions on patient satisfaction.

METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study of consecutive patients during block enrollment periods surveyed at the beginning and end of their ED visits. On arrival patients or their surrogates were surveyed about the specific interventions they expected during their visit. After completion of ED care, they were surveyed about their level of satisfaction with the entire encounter, assessment of their provider's interpersonal skills, impression of time spent waiting in the ED, and perceived waiting time. Satisfaction was assessed with categorical responses. The degree of concordance of interventions expected and interventions provided was analyzed to determine their effect on overall ED visit satisfaction.

RESULTS: Nine hundred eighty-seven patients presented during enrollment periods, 821 met inclusion criteria, and complete data were collected on 504 patient encounters. Twenty-nine percent had no previsit expectations of diagnostic or therapeutic interventions, 24% had a single reported expectation, 47% had multiple intervention expectations. After adjusting for potential confounders, we could not demonstrate a relationship between fulfillment of expectations and satisfaction. We did find a very strong relationship between highly ranked provider interpersonal skills and ED satisfaction (probability ratio of being "very satisfied" 8.6; 95% confidence interval 4.7 to 15.6). Other factors associated with high ED encounter satisfaction were adequate explanations for waiting times and perception of total time in the ED.

CONCLUSION: Overall satisfaction was strongly correlated with patient's assessment of the physician's interpersonal skills and was not correlated with whether the physician had met expectations about diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

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