Factors affecting patient
satisfaction and healthcare
ICFAI Business School, Indore, India
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to build a comprehensive conceptual model to understand and
measure variables affecting patient satisfaction-based healthcare quality.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 24 articles from international journals were
systematically reviewed for factors determining patient satisfaction and healthcare quality.
Findings – Patient satisfaction is a multi-dimensional healthcare construct affected by many
variables. Healthcare quality affects patient satisfaction, which in turn inﬂuences positive patient
behaviours such as loyalty. Patient satisfaction and healthcare service quality, though difﬁcult to
measure, can be operationalized using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines patient inputs as
well as expert judgement.
Research limitations/implications – The paper develops a conceptual model that needs to be
conﬁrmed empirically. Also, most research pertains to developed countries. Findings are presented
that may not be generalized to developing nations, which may be quite different culturally.
Practical implications – The paper has direct implications for health service providers. They are
encouraged to regularly monitor healthcare quality and accordingly initiate service delivery
improvements to maintain high levels of patient satisfaction.
Originality/value – The paper collates and examines recent healthcare quality study ﬁndings. It
presents a comprehensive, conceptual model encompassing research work and a holistic view of
various aspects affecting patient satisfaction and healthcare quality. Although a large amount of
healthcare quality research has been done, each studying a particular service, this paper
comprehensively brings together various research ﬁndings.
Keywords Health services, Quality management, Customer satisfaction, Performance monitoring
Paper type Literature review
Studies conﬁrm that high quality services are directly linked to increased market
share, proﬁts and savings (Devlin and Dong, 1994). Generally, service quality is also
recognized as a corporate marketing and ﬁnancial performance driver (Buttle, 1996).
Speciﬁcally, patients’ quality perceptions have been shown to account for 17-27 percent
of variation in a hospital’s ﬁnancial measures such as earnings, net revenue and asset
returns (Nelson et al., 1992). Moreover, negative word of mouth can cost hospitals
$6,000-$400,000 in lost revenues over one patient’s lifetime (Strasser et al., 1995).
Health service’s nature and value
Like quality in most services, healthcare quality is difﬁcult to measure owing to
inherent intangibility, heterogeneity and inseparability features (Conway and
Willcocks, 1997). Butler et al. (1996) reiterate Zeithaml (1981, pp. 186-190) that
patients participating in production, performance and quality evaluations are affected
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 10 September 2007
Revised 13 November 2007
Accepted 6 January 2008
International Journal of Health Care
Vol. 22 No. 4, 2009
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
by their actions, moods and cooperativeness. Healthcare is dynamic – considerable
customer changes have taken place and competition is increasing (Gilbert et al., 1992).
Consequently, healthcare quality evaluations raise problems owing to service size,
complexity, specialization and expertise within healthcare organizations (Eiriz and
Generally, purchases can be categorized as having search, experiential and credence
properties (Nelson, 1974). Speciﬁcally, healthcare is by nature a credence purchase
(Butler et al., 1996). Patients may be unable to assess medical service technical quality
accurately; hence, functional quality is usually the primary determinant. Also,
healthcare quality is more difﬁcult to deﬁne than other services such as ﬁnancial or
tourism mainly because it is the customer himself/herself and the quality of his/her life
being evaluated (Eiriz and Figueiredu, 2005). Some authors suggest that healthcare
quality can be assessed by taking into account observer, i.e. friends and family
perceptions. Moreover, these observer groups represent potential future customers –
major inﬂuencers of patient healthcare choices (Strasser et al., 1995).
Patient satisfaction and its dimensions
Cure is a fundamental health service expectation (Conway and Willcocks, 1997).
Speciﬁcally, patient satisfaction is deﬁned as an evaluation of distinct healthcare
dimensions (Linder-Pelz, 1982). It may be considered as one of the desired outcomes of
care and so patient satisfaction information should be indispensable to quality
assessments for designing and managing healthcare (Turner and Pol, 1995). Patient
satisfaction enhances hospital image, which in turn translates into increased service
use and market share (Andaleeb, 1988). Satisﬁed customers are likely to exhibit
favourable behavioural intentions, which are beneﬁcial to the healthcare provider’s
long-term success. Customers tend to express intentions in positive ways such as
praising and preferring the company over others, increasing their purchase volumes or
paying a premium (Zeithaml and Bitner, 2000, pp. 176-181).
Patient satisfaction is predicted by factors relating to caring, empathy, reliability
and responsiveness (Tucker and Adams, 2001). Ware et al. (1978) identiﬁed dimensions
affecting patient evaluations, including physician conduct, service availability,
continuity, conﬁdence, efﬁciency and outcomes. Other dimensions have been
introduced to capture patients’ healthcare evaluations (Fowdar, 2005), including:
Human involvement in the service situation with emotions approaching love for the
patient and positive patient outcomes such as pain relief, life saving and dealing with
anger or disappointment with life after medical interventions (Bowers et al., 1994) are
also included in the literature. Woodside et al. (1989) identiﬁed other primary patient
Patients’ perceptions, notably about physician communication skills are also
signiﬁcant satisfaction determinants. Two dimensions in Butler et al.’s (1996) study
explained 66 percent of the variance in patients’ service quality perceptions:
(1) facility quality; and
(2) staff performance.
Access refers to health service availability (service is available when it is required), and
is operationally deﬁned as the number of patient-physician contacts (Turner and Pol,
1995), waiting times, convenience and availability associated with healthcare
experiences (Tucker, 2002). Communication is the degree to which the patient is
heard, kept informed through understandable terms, afforded social interaction and
time during consultation and provided psychological and non-technical information
(Tucker, 2002). If communication is good, which includes information from the service
provider to the patient on the type of care he or she will receive, thereby alleviating
uncertainty that increases his or her awareness and sensitivity about what to expect,
then patient satisfaction is higher (Andaleeb, 1988).
Outcomes are deﬁned as the change in physical health status directly attributable to
the healthcare experience and efforts. Service quality, therefore, is the degree to which
care was humane and competent (Tucker, 2002). If the service provider’s competence is
perceived high then levels of satisfaction also increase. Competence strongly inﬂuences
patients’ service quality assessments (Andaleeb, 1988). Staff demeanour also has a
signiﬁcant impact on customer satisfaction. The manner in which staff interacts with
the patient and staff sensitivity to the patient’s personal experience seems to be
important (Andaleeb, 1988).
Studies show that if hospital costs are perceived high then patient satisfaction is
lower (Andaleeb, 1988). If physical facilities, including: cleanliness; modern equipment;
and the general feeling that the hospital is in a good physical condition, are well
perceived then patient satisfaction increases (Andaleeb, 1988). Many dimensions
discussed so far come close to factors determined by Parasuraman et al. (1988):
.tangibles (physical facilities); and
.empathy (staff demeanour).
Through factor analysis, Tucker and Adams (2001) reduced these variables to two
primary dimensions thought to affect patient evaluations:
(1) Provider performance – found to be the most signiﬁcant in patient evaluations,
associated with interpersonal relations and patient-caregiver interactions.
(2) Access – variables related to the patient’s ability to gain care and the
impediments to that process.
The effect of speciﬁc service encounters on cumulative patient satisfaction
Owing to the nature of different services it becomes necessary to differentiate between
overall customer satisfaction and transaction speciﬁc satisfaction; i.e. speciﬁc service
encounter (Bitner and Hubbert, 1994, pp. 72-94). Multiple service satisfaction leads to
an overall level of customer satisfaction (Bitner and Hubbert, 1994, pp. 72-94). Boshoff
and Gray (2004) found that satisfaction with speciﬁc service dimensions such as
nursing staff, fees and meals were found to exert positive inﬂuence on cumulative
patient satisfaction – the strongest being satisfaction with nursing staff. However,
satisfaction with administration, reception and television services were rejected as
things that inﬂuence customer satisfaction (Boshoff and Gray, 2004).
Different health care options: patient expectation and satisfaction levels
Gilbert et al. (1992) compared patient expectations of three different health provider
(1) emergency rooms;
(2) private physician; and
(3) walk-in clinics.
Expectation and performance questions covered several attributes:
(1) time spent with the physician;
(2) the way diagnosis, treatment and care were explained;
(3) physician and staff friendliness; and
(4) amount of information provided.
There was also two instrumental attributes:
(1) cost; and
(2) physician competence.
The study showed that expectations were not equal for all three health service
providers. For walk-in-clinic patrons, the most important inﬂuence on expectations
was staff friendliness and cost. For private physician patients, they were friendliness
and time spent with the customer, treatment explanations and competence. Customers
said emergency rooms were the least attractive. The most important inﬂuence were
physician friendliness, competence, amount of time spent with the customer and the
amount of information provided. Both private physician and emergency room patrons
placed walk-in rooms as the referent for their expectations. Staff friendliness, cost and
the amount of time the physician spent with them were found to be the three most
important considerations/discriminators. With low expectations, emergency rooms
generated higher than expected satisfaction levels. The only group where what was
received was exactly as what was expected was walk-in patrons. In the case of private
physicians, the performance fell short of expectations, thus generating dissatisfaction.
Healthcare value chain: various actor roles and links that shape patient satisfaction and
According to Pitta and Laric (2004), healthcare delivery value can be described using
elements that precede service delivery. The value chain includes ﬁve groups:
(1) payers – government, employer and individuals;
(2) ﬁscal intermediaries – insurers;
(3) providers – hospitals, hospital systems and alternate site facilities;
(4) purchasers; and
Their study elaborates how links are created from the simplest, direct
physician-patient to more complex and elaborate networks, which include other
players such as employers, insurers, retailers, diagnosis systems and alternate medical
service providers. Healthcare value chains also carry a large amount of patient
information, which patients may feel a perceived risk in disclosing. The study shows
how each of these links and players create positive or negative patient experiences. All
value chain entities are important for service success and any one can harm image. As
in all services, the customer tends to blame the contact organization when there is a
problem (the hospital, in this case). Authors suggest that hospital managers can
increase perceived value for the customer by handling the bulk of behind-the-scenes
detail, providing clear and appropriate patient information and showing care and
concern (Pitta and Laric, 2004).
Role of hospital rooms in shaping patient perceptions and satisfactions
The physical setting in which services are delivered has been found to inﬂuence
customer service performance evaluations, including customer satisfaction (Bitner,
1990, 1992; Parasuraman et al., 1985, 1988). In the healthcare literature, a common
ﬁnding is that physical facilities are a component of patient healthcare evaluations
(Woodside et al., 1989). Swan et al.’s (2003) recent study showed that room appearance
affects patient perceptions and satisfaction. Their study compared patients’
evaluations of rooms that ranged in quality. Healthcare dimensions affected by
room appearance are:
.physician skill and expertise;
.physician and nurse courtesy (answering questions, listening to concerns);
.food (overall satisfaction, receiving what was ordered, temperature);
.general hospital evaluations;
.intentions to use the hospital again; and
.recommending the hospital to others.
On all these dimensions, patients staying in appealing rooms gave more positive
evaluations than those in typical rooms. However, regarding nurse behaviour
(answering calls, explaining illness, treatment and home care) no signiﬁcant
differences were found between room types.
Effect of diagnosis on patient perceptions and expectations
Silvestro (2005) studied patient perceptions in one NHS breast cancer screening unit
and found that screened and diagnosed patient perceptions differed. Screened patients’
ratings were slightly lower than diagnosed patients’ evaluations, which reﬂected the
diagnosed patients’ heightened sensitivity to service levels. Integrity (transparency
and instilling patient conﬁdence) was another factor emerging as important for
patients. Communication and competence emerged as important quality factors among
screened patients. In the diagnosed patient’s case, the four most important service
quality factors were: reliability; integrity; functionality and comfort. Also, the
diagnosed patients’ perceptions were generally slightly lower than screened patients’.
In general, screened patients’ perceptions were positive. However, diagnosed patients’
perceptions (with the exception of courtesy) were poor leading to a negative gap for
every factor. Patients were most dissatisﬁed with:
.privacy (undressing during the screening process and that conversation with
staff were overheard).
Privacy’s importance has been recognized in previous studies (Silvestro, 2005).
Effect of socio-demographic characteristics on patient perceptions
Socio-demographic variables showing positive association with patient satisfaction
.marital status; and
However, Tucker (2002) states that unclear, contradictory and inconclusive
relationships exist between:
.satisfaction and gender;
.marital status; and
Individual factors positively associated with patient satisfaction are health status and
education. Younger, less educated, lower ranking, married, poorer health and
high-service use were associated with lower satisfaction (Tucker, 2002). Another study
found that the patient’s health quality assessment appeared to change with the
introduction of patient’s socio-demographic characteristics. However, the effect
produced only a 1 percent variation (Tucker and Adams, 2001). Butler et al. (1996)
found gender and age signiﬁcantly predicted patients’ quality perceptions, but on only
one dimension – facilities. Females valued this dimension more than males. Perceived
facility-related quality was found to be better for older than younger respondents
(Butler et al., 1996). Earlier studies showed satisfaction differences between health
service users and observers (Strasser et al., 1995). However, Butler et al. (1996) found no
signiﬁcant differences in health quality perceptions between users and observers
(friends and families of patient). A signiﬁcant difference, on the other hand, was found
on facility quality dimension – where users criticised the hospital’s tangible
characteristics more than observers (Butler et al., 1996).
Earlier work also suggests that patient’s expectations and priorities vary among
countries and are highly related to cultural background and to the healthcare system
(Eiriz and Figueiredu, 2005). Income was the only socio-demographic characteristic
found to have an inﬂuence on patient satisfaction (Mummalaneni and Gopalakrishna,
1995); this study included socio-demographic characteristics such as age, gender,
occupation, employment status, education and income. It revealed that only income
inﬂuenced patient satisfaction; upper income customers appeared more concerned with
personal health delivery such as answers they receive to medical queries, waiting time
for appointments and medical care. Lower income consumers, on the other hand, were
more concerned with costs and overall physical facilities, indicating value orientation.
Healthcare quality and satisfaction
Patient determined quality literature inconclusively predicts the direction of
satisfaction and quality from the patient’s perspective (Tucker and Adams, 2001).
Quality is positively correlated with satisfaction; however, the direction and strength of
the predictive relationship between quality and satisfaction remains unclear. Some
authors believe that complex healthcare services and the patient’s lack of technical
knowledge to assess them should incorporate broader healthcare quality measures,
including ﬁnancial performance, logistics, professional and technical competence (Eiriz
and Figueiredo, 2005). Quality is a judgmental concept (Turner and Pol, 1995) and
operational quality deﬁnitions, as we have seen, are based on values, perceptions and
attitudes (Taylor and Cronin, 1994). The implication thus is to develop quality
measures based on expert judgement, speciﬁcally insightful customers and respected
practitioners (Turner and Pol, 1995). Consequently, healthcare quality can be
categorized in three ways (Donabedian, 1986):
(1) Technical aspects – how well clinicians diagnose and treat problems.
(2) Interpersonal component – provider responsiveness, friendliness and
(3) Amenities – health care facility appeal and comfort.
Individual healthcare quality measures include (Donabedian, 1986):
.Structure – the medical delivery system’s ﬁxed characteristics such as staff
number, types, qualiﬁcations and facilities.
.Process – what is done to and for the patient such as treatment.
.Outcomes – changes in the patients’ current and future health attributed to
antecedent medical care.
Measuring healthcare quality
Some believe healthcare quality should be studied from the patient’s perspective.
Patients provide valid and unique information about the quality of care (Ware and
Stewart, 1992, p. 3, 291, 373). Another school believes that patient satisfaction rather
than health status is the primary healthcare measure. This line of research focuses
primarily on the attitude towards service performance by conﬁrming/disconﬁrming
expectations (Taylor and Cronin, 1994). The SERVQUAL instrument has been
empirically evaluated and found to be reliable and valid for hospital use (Babakus and
Mangold, 1992). Generally, the tool and adapted versions are suitable for measuring
patient satisfaction (Sohail, 2003; Parasuraman et al., 1988, 1991). However, some
authors question its applicability for healthcare (Butler et al., 1996). Consequently, in
some studies, the tool has been modiﬁed by dropping irrelevant or adding relevant
dimensions (Fowdar, 2005; Sohail, 2003). It is generally felt that SERVQUAL should be
adapted as required (Parasuraman et al., 1988).
The Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set (HEDIS) coordinated by the
National Committee for Quality Assurance in the US involves self-reporting surveys. It
attempts to standardize managed care delivery, quality and cost-effectiveness
evaluation. The Medical Treatment Effectiveness Programme (MEDEP) concentrates
on medical effectiveness research. It focuses on identifying procedures and treatments
that improve care quality, clinical outcomes and patients’ quality of life. It involves
(1) data collection and development;
(2) patient outcomes and clinical effectiveness research;
(3) developing and disseminating guidelines; and
(4) assimilating research ﬁndings guidelines.
However, accreditation limitations include:
.the absence of standards weighting criteria;
.ﬁxation on goals that repress investigation into related areas or side-effects;
.review teams’ managerial bias; and
.processes that obstruct input from the institution’s most severe critics.
The 1992 American Medical Association’s review process also uses various
approaches but is limited by differences in peer review assessments (Turner and
More complex conceptual models to understand and measure patient satisfaction and
healthcare quality include Turner and Pol’s (1995) multidimensional approach to
measuring healthcare quality, representing experts and other stakeholder judgements.
The authors incorporated Donabedian’s (1986) and Ware and Stewart’s (1992, p. 3, 291,
373) patient satisfaction perspective in a model for measuring service quality including
two more care dimensions: access and personnel. Additionally, the model incorporates
contexts in which quality is measured, thereby providing an explanation for the level
at which outcome or degrees of satisfaction are measured. Within each quality
dimensions, these contexts affect how different components are weighted. The authors
suggested two contexts – micro and macro. Macro includes delivery modes (where
care is delivered), “providership” (the mechanism through which care is delivered such
as managed care, fee-for-service, insured care)and technology. Micro context factors
are those accounting for individual differences such as values, beliefs and maladies,
etc. Furthermore, each quality dimension comprises general and speciﬁc
construct/measurement. General context such as inpatient versus outpatient service
is also considered. The researchers measured quality dimensions including access,
personnel, clinical outcome and patient satisfaction. Thus, the model brings out patient
satisfaction as a multi-dimensional concept needing to be operationalized and
considered under the relevant contexts (Turner and Pol, 1995). Second, Tucker and
Adams’ (2001) integrative patient evaluation model shows how caring, empathy,
reliability, responsiveness, access, communication and outcome dimensions predict
satisfaction and quality as moderated by the patients’ socio-demographic
characteristics. Third, Conway and Willcocks’ (1997) integrated model applies
service quality to healthcare settings. It incorporates inﬂuencing factors such as:
.patient knowledge and experience;
.perceived risk/pain/distress level;
.afﬁliated parties’ experience;
.afﬁliated parties’ information;
.patient personality; and
.socio-economic factors with measurement issues (reliability, responsiveness,
tangibles, assurance, empathy, information, access, redress and representation).
For each, the degree of conﬁrmation/disconﬁrmation is incorporated with expectations
and service-quality gaps (Parasuraman et al., 1985) to arrive at patient satisfaction
Healthcare service satisfaction and loyalty
Previous studies show a positive relationship between service quality and customer
satisfaction (Loveman, 1998; Heskett et al., 1997, pp. 236-257). Customer loyalty is both
an attitude and a shopping behaviour (Dick and Basu, 1994). In the context of
healthcare, a study found nurse empathy, assurance and tangibles affected loyalty
positively. Security’s impact on loyalty was, however, found to be negative; that is too
much security reduced loyalty. Satisfaction with meals, fees and television services
were also found to positively affect loyalty (Boshoff and Gray, 2004).
Physician role and patient behaviour
Ross et al. (1982) found patients in large multi-speciality organizations were more
satisﬁed with physicians who ﬁt an expected demographic norm (middle-aged, white
men from higher socio-economic groups). Also, a greater match between role
expectations and physician behaviour meant more satisﬁed respondents (Ditto et al.,
1995). There is a clear relationship between medical care satisfaction and patient
compliance; when patients are dissatisﬁed with medical advice they are less likely to
cooperate. Ditto et al. (1995) argue that it is healthcare’s socio-emotional component
rather than the physician’s perceived competence or intelligence that seems to be most
important in determining patient satisfaction with their physician, and consequently
their adherence to treatment regimens. According to the authors, patients encounter
two physician types – authoritarian and egalitarian. The former is deﬁned as one
where the physician assumes the role of an expert and primary decision maker. The
patient expecting such a role places great faith in the physician’s abilities, anticipating
the physician will provide clear-cut treatment. The egalitarian belief, on the other hand,
is deﬁned as one where the patient expects the physician to make treatment
recommendations, discuss options and allow the patient to participate in treatment
decisions (Ditto et al., 1995). Subjects expressing authoritarian beliefs about physician
roles tend to show greater healthcare utilization by visiting medical professionals more
often. Beliefs about physicians were unrelated to age, gender, marital status, race or
education. Authoritarian role expectations were also found to be signiﬁcantly
associated with longer physician-patient relationships. Authoritarian expectation
subjects reported poorer health status than egalitarian ones. Physicians presenting
treatment in an egalitarian style were perceived as signiﬁcantly more competent and
inspired greater conﬁdence in both themselves and their prescriptions than did
authoritarian physicians. Respondents were less likely to seek a second opinion after
an egalitarian prescription. Both authoritarian and egalitarian subjects were more
satisﬁed with the egalitarian physicians than the authoritarian ones (Ditto et al., 1995).
This ﬁnding, however, seems to contradict earlier studies showing that if there was a
greater similarity between the physician’s behaviour with the expected role then
patient satisfaction would be greater. Authoritarian belief patients also responded as
being more satisﬁed with egalitarian style. Consequently, patient compliance too
would be greater for egalitarian than authoritarian physicians even for an
authoritarian belief patient. Further research needs to be carried out to address
Lovdal and Peerson (1989) found that doctors’ and other medical personnel’s
behaviour were central determinants of patients’ attitudes about a hospital as a whole.
They also conﬁrmed earlier studies that affective role physicians were more likely to
generate satisfaction among respondents than instrumental types. Patients look for
behaviour that is supportive, friendly, caring, helpful and attentive. Ware et al. (1978)
show that physicians’ affective behaviour is seen to be more satisfying to patients. The
authors state that consumers appear to take for granted that doctors are well trained
and highly skilled. What consumers do not seem to take for granted, on the other hand,
is the degree to which doctors’ exhibit friendly, caring behaviour. In terms of patient
perceptions, respondents had less favourable opinions about doctors’ affective as
opposed to instrumental behaviour (Lovdal and Peerson, 1989, p. 40).
Trust in the context of healthcare
There has been an increased awareness, via media reporting, of harm associated with
healthcare errors. With this came an increased concern amongst policy makers,
hospital administrators and professionals about patient safety. Hall (2005) explains
that those who trust have an expectation that the trusted person will behave with
goodwill towards them and with competence in the domain in which he or she is
trusted (or in caring for that with which he or she is entrusted). Patient safety concerns
may lead customers to stop using a particular hospital’s services owing to negative
word-of-mouth. Basic principles outlined in healthcare studies include:
.Trusting patients are vigilant, i.e. trust is not simply a vague hope or thinking
optimistically; health service providers must keep patients alert to errors in the
course of their care. Some checking by the patient is appropriate even when there
is trust particularly when honest mistakes are possible, which may be easily
spotted and corrected.
.Patients may continue to trust even if harmed.
.Healthcare provider’s trust in their patients may positively affect healthcare
experience and outcomes.
Entwistle and Quick’s (2006, p. 411) study reviews patient safety developments and
suggests avenues for further research:
We have suggested, in principle, trust can be understood in such a way that it is well placed,
morally appropriate and compatible with current understandings of safety problems in
Factors responsible for HMO customer switching behaviour
Rising healthcare consumerism is changing the traditional physician-patient
relationship into a provider-consumer one. By taking a consumerist stance, patients
are now more inclined to ask questions, contribute to decision making, “shop” for
doctors, sample healthcare providers and switch services if they experience
dissatisfaction. Service industry brand switching behaviour is inﬂuenced by price,
inconvenience, core service failures, inadequate employee responses to service failures,
competitive issues, ethical problems and involuntary factors. Of the few studies that
focus on patient switching behaviour, one found that dissatisfaction with emergency
access increases the probability of switching healthcare providers (Ho et al., 1998). This
factor includes attributes such as emergency care procedures, getting care without
appointment and a 24-hour phone consultation. Individual factors such as marital
status and education also determine switching behaviour. People with higher
education are more health conscious and more aware of their consumer rights – they
are more inclined to challenge medical advice and ask questions. The study provides
healthcare managers an opportunity to make improvements such as better emergency
care, installing a 24-hour phone consultation, etc. (Ho et al., 1998).
Distance and hospital use
Earlier studies examined the effect of distance on patients’ health service use.
Goodman et al. (1997) found that speciﬁc service use is increased by availability. The
authors examined the relationships between distance from home, primary care
physician and hospitalization rates. Previous work showed that rural citizens are more
likely to be hospitalized than urban residents. Hospital use was found to be well
reﬂected as a function of discharge rates – showing a U-shaped curve between
discharge rates and distance. However, in the case of children, the relationship was
seen to be step-wise with discharge rates decreasing with increasing distance. The
study did not indicate that hospitalizing more people residing close to hospitals was
associated with higher illness rates. Rather, the results indicate that adults with poor
health tend to live closer to hospitals. A similar relationship was found among children
with chronic illnesses who moved closer to medical facilities. Living further from the
hospital was associated with lower hospital rates in metropolitan as well as
no-metropolitan areas, afﬂuent as well as poor populations. Proximity inﬂuences the
likelihood of patients’ contacting the healthcare service and the means they use or the
rate at which physicians recommend (and patients accept) hospitalization for
conditions where there is substantial uncertainty about its need (Goodman et al., 1997,
Understanding hospital staff perceptions of patient priorities and perceptions
Apart from understanding patient satisfaction dimensions, Silvestro (2005) argues it is
beneﬁcial for managers to understand staff perceptions regarding patient expectations
and perceptions. Such an examination helps us to understand if there are gaps between
the two and to take measures to close them through training, for example. In a
healthcare service study, the author focused on extending the use of a tool based on
SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988) to measure staff perceptions of patient
priorities with a view to identify those staff who best understood the patient’s
perspective. This, the author felt, can be applied to identify functional differences and
thus allow opportunities for intra-organizational learning. The study involved staff
from different functional areas (nursing, management and radiology) and found that
differences in staff understanding patient priorities and perceptions did indeed emerge.
Apart from intra-organizational learning, such an analysis can also lead to recognizing
and rewarding high levels of services with positive effects on staff morale and esteem
Figure 1 proposes a comprehensive model that encompasses issues discussed in this
article. The model shows how patient and health providers create and affect health
service quality. Patient involvement is an inherent feature in healthcare services
whereby he or she inﬂuences outcome quality through compliance, describing the right
symptoms and physically undergoing treatment. Health service quality perceptions
are antecedents to patient satisfaction, which in turn decide whether patients are loyal
to healthcare providers. Patient loyalty results in positive behaviours such as
recommending health services to friends and relatives, compliance and higher service
use thus positively impacting proﬁtability. Moderating factors that affect patient
satisfaction are outlined.
Healthcare services are difﬁcult to evaluate as credence values are high. There is a
debate about how healthcare should be evaluated. While some authors feel patient
perceptions are valuable healthcare quality indicators, others contend that health
service quality should be evaluated by experts. The SERVQUAL instrument is used in
many patient satisfaction studies and has been found appropriate in healthcare
settings, but needs to be modiﬁed to suit speciﬁc environments. Dimensions that
determine patient satisfaction have been identiﬁed, including:
.health care output;
These are close to general service quality dimensions like reliability, responsiveness,
empathy, assurance and tangibles.
Healthcare experiences can be understood by studying value systems comprising
various actors and links. Each has the capacity to create a positive or negative patient
experience. Hospital room appearance and comfort also play a signiﬁcant role in
determining patient perceptions, which seem also to be moderated by
socio-demographic factors though some authors contend that these play
contradictory, no or miniscule roles. Physician studies show that different role
expectations give rise to different patient satisfaction, perception, care take-up and
other compliance behaviour. Trust has been studied in the context of health with care
errors reported in the media. However, material reviewed points out that healthcare
trust requires further research. Several researchers developed conceptual models to
measure health services and one suggests that patient satisfaction is a
multi-dimensional concept that should be studied by operationalizing it within its
context. Consequently, a conceptual model to understand and measure patient
satisfaction and care quality in health care services is proposed by the author.
Measuring healthcare quality can help healthcare managers to effectively set control
mechanism and initiate improvement programmes. This article, by reviewing
published research, found that patient satisfaction and healthcare quality are
fundamental to improving health service performance and image.
A comprehensive model to
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