Despite complaints that patient-satisfaction surveys may be influenced by factors not associated with the care delivered, the authors of a New England Journal of Medicine opinion piece argue that appropriately designed and timely administered surveys "provide robust measures of quality" and that efforts to accurately measure patient experiences "should be redoubled."
"Healthcare is, after all, a service, so measures of its quality should include assessment of the extent to which the patient and service providers reach a common understanding of the patient's situation," wrote the authors, who are researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "We have found that patient-reported measures not only are strongly correlated with better outcomes but also largely capture patient evaluation of care-focused communication with nurses and physicians, rather than noncore aspects of patient experience, such as room features and meals."
A concern noted in the opinion piece is that experience measures may reflect a patient's desire for a particular drug, regardless of whether the choice of that drug would actually benefit the patient. But, according to the authors, studies have found that "increased patient engagement leads to lower resource use but greater patient satisfaction."