Some issues in the measurement of patient satisfaction with health care services

by John E. Ware, Mary K. Snyder, W. Redwood Wright


Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback20 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

Reviews and summarizes findings from a study of numerous surveys to measure patient satisfaction with physicians and medical care services. The authors are critical of many common practices in scoring and interpreting data from such surveys. Specifically: (1) Patient satisfaction is not a unidimensional concept nor can it be adequately treated as a dichotomous variable. (2) Patient satisfaction cannot be reliably nor validly measured with the response to one questionnaire item. (3) Questions that focus on personal satisfaction need to be distinguished from those asking about care received by people in general. (4) The influence of preference and general sentiments on patient satisfaction ratings is not large enough to invalidate satisfaction surveys, and properly constructed surveys will give much information about process and outcomes of care as perceived by consumers. (5) Surveys that demonstrate overwhelming satisfaction with U.S. physicians and medical care are not being interpreted properly.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.