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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How Accurately Can Emergency Department Providers Estimate Patient Satisfaction?


Introduction: Patient satisfaction is an important measure of emergency department (ED) quality of care. Little is known about providers’ ability to estimate patient satisfaction. We aimed to measure providers’ ability to assess patient satisfaction and hypothesized that providers could accurately estimate overall patient satisfaction.

Methods: We surveyed ED patients regarding satisfaction with their care. Treating providers completed analogous surveys, estimating patients’ responses. Sexual assault victims and non-English-speaking or severely ill patients were excluded. Satisfaction responses were categorized as ‘‘satisfied’’ or ‘‘not satisfied.’’ Patient satisfaction scores were considered the ‘‘gold standard,’’ and providers’ perceptions of the patient satisfaction were considered tests. Measures of diagnosticaccuracy, such as positive predictive value (PPV) and sensitivity, were used to assess how accurately the provider could estimate his or her patient’s satisfaction.

Results: Here, 242/457 eligible patients (53%) completed the survey; 227 providers (94%) completed a corresponding survey. Subject-reported overall satisfaction was 96.6%, compared with a provider estimated rate of 94.4%. The sensitivity and PPV of the provider’s estimate of the patient’s satisfaction were 95.2 (95% confidence interval [CI] 91.4, 97.7) and 97.5 (95% CI 94.4, 99.2), respectively, for overall patient satisfaction. The PPV was similar for clarity of communication. The PPV was 78.9 for perceived length of ED stay (99% CI 70.8, 85.6) and 82.6 for quality of pain control (95% CI 68.6, 92.2). Accuracy of attending and resident estimates of patient satisfaction did not differ significantly. The agreement between patient-reported and provider-estimated patient satisfaction was not associated with age, gender, patient disposition, or ED divert status.

Conclusion: Providers are able to assess overall patient satisfaction and clarity of communication with a high accuracy. Physician estimates of pain control and perceived length of stay have a moderate accuracy. [West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(4):351–357.]


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