A randomized controlled trial of the effect of service delivery information on patient satisfaction in an emergency department fast track

Melissa L McCarthy, Ru Ding, Scott L Zeger, Noah O Agada, Sara C Bessman, Wesley Chiang, Gabor D Kelen, James J Scheulen, Edward S Bessman
Academic Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine 2011, 18 (7): 674-85

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to determine the effect on patient satisfaction of providing patients with predicted service completion times.

METHODS: A randomized controlled trial was conducted in an urban, community teaching hospital. Emergency department (ED) patients triaged to fast track on weekdays between October 26, 2009, and December 30, 2009, from 9 am to 5 pm were eligible. Patients were randomized to: 1) usual care (n = 342), 2) provided ED process information (n = 336), or 3) provided ED process information plus predicted service delivery times (n = 333). Patients in group 3 were given an "average" and "upper range" estimate of their waiting room times and treatment times. The average and upper range predictions were calculated from quantile regression models that estimated the 50th and 90th percentiles of the waiting room time and treatment time distributions for fast track patients at the study site based on 2.5 years of historical data. Trained research assistants administered the interventions after triage. Patients completed a brief survey at discharge that measured their satisfaction with overall care, the quality of the information they received, and the timeliness of care. Satisfaction ratings of very good versus good, fair, poor, and very poor were modeled using logistic regression as a function of study group; actual service delivery times; and other patient, clinical, and temporal covariates. The study also modeled satisfaction ratings of fair, poor, and very poor compared to good and very good ratings as a function of the same covariates.

RESULTS: Survey completion rates and patient, clinical, and temporal characteristics were similar by study group. Median waiting room time was 70 minutes (interquartile range [IQR] = 40 to 114 minutes), and median treatment time was 52 minutes (IQR = 31 to 81 minutes). Neither intervention affected any of the satisfaction outcomes. Satisfaction was significantly associated with actual waiting room time, individual providers, and patient age. Every 10-minute increase in waiting room time corresponded with an 8% decrease (odds ratio [OR] = 0.92; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.89 to 0.95) in the odds of reporting very good satisfaction with overall care. The odds of reporting very good satisfaction with care were lower for several triage nurses and fast track nurses, compared to the triage nurse and fast track nurse who treated the most study patients. Each 10-minute increase in waiting room time was also associated with a 10% increase in the odds of reporting very poor, poor, or fair satisfaction with overall care (OR = 1.10; 95% CI = 1.06 to 1.14). The odds of reporting very poor, poor, or fair satisfaction with overall care also varied significantly among the triage nurses, fast track doctors, and fast track nurses. The odds of reporting very poor, poor, or fair satisfaction with overall care were significantly lower among patients aged 35 years and older compared to patients aged 18 to 34 years.

CONCLUSIONS: Satisfaction with overall care was influenced by waiting room time and the clinicians who treated them and not by service completion time estimates provided at triage.

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