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The Importance of Patient Satisfaction: A Blessing, a Curse, or Simply Irrelevant?

Cohen, Justin B. M.D., M.S.; Myckatyn, Terence M. M.D.; Brandt, Keith M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: January 2017 - Volume 139 - Issue 1 - p 257–261
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000002848
Special Topics: Original Article
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Summary: New regulations require that physician performance must be evaluated and graded in both objective and subjective ways. This represents a novel factor in American health care delivery driven by the reality that the United States spends more than any other nation on health care yet still lags behind in key outcome measures. Patient satisfaction has been established as a core component of physician rankings and reimbursement. In fact, it already has acted as both a powerful motivator and stressor. Patient feedback has driven hospital administrators’ agendas to improve facilities and provide relative luxuries to inpatients, and individual providers have been tempted to ignore sound medical judgment by relenting to patient requests to increase their satisfaction scores. Unfortunately, there is little high-level evidence to support that patient satisfaction will improve medical outcomes, and there are plenty of contradictory data in smaller studies. Part of the difficulty of these studies may lie in the diversity of patient expectations, which are dependent on the disease process and the inherently subjective and labile nature of people’s responses. Reliable tools are needed that will take into account what constitutes a superior quality of patient care in a more systematic, meaningful, and validated way.

St. Louis, Mo.

From the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine.

Received for publication April 26, 2016; accepted August 8, 2016.

Disclosure: There were no sources of funding for this work and no direct financial interests.

Terence M. Myckatyn, M.D., 1020 North Mason Road, Suite 110, St. Louis, Mo. 63141, myckatynt@wudosis.wustl.edu

©2017American Society of Plastic Surgeons