Uncovering the blind spot of patient satisfaction: an international survey

Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 1620 Tremont Street, BS-3, Boston, MA 02120, USA.
BMJ quality & safety (Impact Factor: 3.28). 09/2011; 20(11):959-65. DOI: 10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000306
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To achieve a high level of patient satisfaction, providers need to identify and address patients' expectations. However, providers' beliefs and attitudes regarding expectations, as well as how to manage them, are not well understood.
The authors developed a survey to assess clinicians' awareness, attitudes, competence and performance with respect to patient expectations. The authors surveyed clinicians in four academic hospitals located in Denmark, Israel, the UK and the USA.
The authors collected 1004 questionnaires (79.9% response rate) from four hospitals in four countries spanning three continents. Overall, 88.8% of respondents stated that clinician awareness regarding patient expectations was moderate to low, with significant differences between countries (p<0.001). Although 89.4% of clinicians believed it was important to ask patients about expectations, only 16.1% reported actually asking (p<0.0001). Nurses were more likely than physicians to ask patients about expectations (20.1% vs 11.5%, p<0.001). Only 19.6% of respondents felt they had adequate training to handle patients' expectations. In multivariate analyses, clinicians with greater awareness and adequate training were more likely to ask patients about their expectations.
While clinicians think it is important to ask patients about their expectations, they often fail to do so and consequently may not respond adequately. These results identify a 'blind spot' in clinicians' approach when attempting to address patient expectations and improve patient satisfaction, suggesting that healthcare organisations should take a more active role in increasing clinicians' awareness and initiating structured training programmes to cope with patient expectations.

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