Increasing understanding of patient needs during and after hospitalization.

D. H. Gustafson*, N. K. Arora, E. C. Nelson, E. W. Boberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The value of patient satisfaction surveys in health care improvement remains controversial. This study examined the value of alternative ways of identifying patient needs and estimating importance of those needs in improving the impact of satisfaction surveys. METHODS: Ninety-one acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients from three southeast U.S. community hospitals were surveyed in 1992. Critical incident and person-focused interviews were used to identify patient needs. Besides overall/global satisfaction with care, patients rated satisfaction with and importance of 12 care delivery and 18 information and support needs. Unmet need scores (importance minus satisfaction) were estimated. Derived importance scores were assessed by correlating global satisfaction with individual need satisfaction scores. A two-step process for identifying priority areas for improvement was proposed. RESULTS: Patients identified and assigned greater scores to unmet needs for information and support needs (not included in typical satisfaction surveys) compared to typically assessed care delivery needs (p < 0.0001). Direct importance ratings differed substantially from those derived through correlation analyses (r = 0.28, p > 0.3 for care delivery needs and r = -0.17, p > 0.4 for information and support needs). Needs that received high importance and low satisfaction scores were all information and support needs. DISCUSSION: Needs that patients consider very important are usually ignored in typical patient surveys. Derived approaches typically used to assess importance of need from satisfaction data may provide misleading results. If satisfaction surveys are to result in real performance improvement, a fresh examination of the content and importance assessment strategies, as proposed, is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-92
Number of pages12
JournalThe Joint Commission journal on quality improvement
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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