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Resident Forum
December 23/30, 1998

Patient Satisfaction: Measuring the Art of Medicine

Author Affiliations

Prepared by Ashish Bajaj, Department of Resident Physician Services, American Medical Association.

JAMA. 1998;280(24):2127D. doi:10.1001/jama.280.24.2127

In business schools and corporate boardrooms across America, the terms customer satisfaction and demand management have become an integral part of the lexicon. Twenty years ago, most corporations were not focused on such external factors and for the most part did not design products or deliver services with much significant research into, or interest in, what consumers actually wanted. An analogous argument could have been made about the medical profession; care was often delivered from the physician's perspective without a great deal of input from patients or their families.

However, a number of factors have made physicians more interested in measuring and responding to patient's desires. One key factor is that physicians and other health professionals are now examining patient satisfaction as part of a renewed focus on quality and value in health care delivery. Managed care organizations (MCOs) became popular because employers needed to curb skyrocketing employee health care costs in order to remain competitive. Because much of that early "fat" has now been cut out of the system, and the price differential among physicians and hospitals is decreasing, patients are now judging physicians not solely by cost, but also by the value or quality of care they deliver. Patient satisfaction is a critical variable in any calculation of quality or value.