Research shows patients care less about waits
Conventional wisdom - and indeed, much literature - supports the idea that satisfied patients are impressed with short waiting times, good parking, convenient locations, and sophisticated equipment.
But a new study looking at patient satisfaction with physical therapy clinics found that what patients really care about is the quality and quantity of time they spend with their therapist.
According to the study, recently published in the journal Physical Therapy, patients rate first in importance the amount of time the therapist spends with them, along with the therapist’s listening and communication skills and the therapist’s willingness to give clear explanations of treatment.1
The quality of patient-therapist interaction counts for much more than high-tech medical hardware, accessible parking, and convenient location and office hours.
Researchers surveyed a sample of 1,868 workers’ compensation patients from clinics in 17 states in an effort to measure the effectiveness of a patient satisfaction survey instrument the authors developed.
"Based on the current literature regarding customer satisfaction, as well as conventional wisdom, we asked questions about things like parking, location, equipment quality - things that arguably would be of interest to a consumer," says Paul Beattie, PhD, PT, OCS, clinical associate professor in the department of exercise science at the University of South Carolina’s School of Public Health in Columbia.
"We found that none of those things correlated significantly with the overall satisfaction with care," he says. "The big things were that they wanted to have quality time with the therapist and to have that person answer their questions, provide information, and spend adequate time with them.
High quality is worth the wait
"Our primary objective was to develop an instrument and determine its measurement properties," Beattie says, "but when I saw these results, it was almost astonishing. It was a very strong relationship, and I think it’s significant in terms of practice."
The waiting time issue might be the most surprising. "As a patient, you may say that a lengthy waiting time was worth it if the therapist really paid attention to you, answered all your questions, and provided high-quality care," Beattie says.
"On the other hand, you could go to a palatial clinic where you are quickly moved through without adequate time or attention from your therapist, and you’re going to be dissatisfied with that experience," he adds.
- Beattie P, Pinto MB, et al. Patient satisfaction with outpatient physical therapy care: Instrument validation and identification of important components. Phys Ther 2002; 82:557.