Bulletin of the World Health Organization

How does satisfaction with the health-care system relate to patient experience?

Sara N Bleich, Emre Özaltin & Christopher JL Murray

Objective

To explore what determines people’s satisfaction with the health-care system above and beyond their experience as patients.

Methods

Data on health system responsiveness, which refers to the manner and environment in which people are treated when they seek health care, provide a unique opportunity to better understand the determinants of people’s satisfaction with the health-care system and how strongly this is influenced by an individual’s experience as a patient. The data were obtained from 21 European Union countries in the World Health Survey for 2003. Additive ordinary least-squares regression models were used to assess the extent to which variables commonly associated with satisfaction with the health-care system, as recorded in the literature, explain the variation around the concept of satisfaction. A residual analysis was used to identify other predictors of satisfaction with the health-care system.

Findings

Patient experience was significantly associated with satisfaction with the health-care system and explained 10.4% of the variation around the concept of satisfaction. Other factors such as patient expectations, health status, type of care, and immunization coverage were also significant predictors of health system satisfaction; although together they explained only 17.5% of the observed variation, while broader societal factors may largely account for the unexplained portion of satisfaction with the health-care system.

Conclusion

Contrary to published reports, people’s satisfaction with the health-care system depends more on factors external to the health system than on the experience of care as a patient. Thus, measuring the latter may be of limited use as a basis for quality improvement and health system reform.

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