Essential tips for measuring levels of consumer satisfaction with rural health service quality.

Monash University School of Rural Health, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.
Rural and remote health (Impact Factor: 0.87). 6(4):594.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Quality of health services is a matter of increasing importance to health authorities. Monitoring consumer satisfaction of health care is an important input to improving the quality of health services. This article highlights a number of important considerations learned from rural consumer studies relevant to ensuring the valid measurement of consumer satisfaction with rural health services, as a means of contributing to quality improvements.
This article compares two methods of analysing rural consumers' satisfaction with healthcare services. In one study of three rural communities in western New South Wales (NSW) and eight communities in north-west Victoria, residents were asked to rate their satisfaction with five key aspects of local health services (availability, geographical accessibility, choice, continuity, economic accessibility as measured by affordability) using a 5 point Likert scale from: one = very satisfied to five = very dissatisfied. An alternative method of assessing levels of consumer satisfaction was undertaken in the survey of eight rural communities in north-west Victoria by investigating consumers' experiences with actual and potential complaints in relation to health services.
Both the NSW and Victorian respondents reported generally high levels of satisfaction with the five indicators of quality of health care. At the same time, 11% of Victorian study respondents reported having made a complaint about a health service in the previous 12 months, and one-third of the Victorian respondents reported experiences with their health services about which they wanted to complain but did not, over the same period.
Interpretation of apparent consumer satisfaction with their health services must take particular account of the measures and research methods used. In assessing consumer satisfaction with health services in rural areas, specific attention should be given to maximising the engagement of rural consumers in order to ensure representativeness of findings, and to minimise possible biases in satisfaction ratings associated with the use of particular tools.

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