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Public Opinion About Health Care - Consumer Satisfaction With Health Care Facilities

gallup apr hospital worried

Despite the problems that continue to plague hospitals such as shortages of nurses and other key personnel, diminished reimbursement, shorter inpatient lengths-of-stay, sicker patients, and excessively long waiting times for patients in emergency and other hospital departments, consumer satisfaction with hospital services has remained relatively constant since 2000. Gallup data revealed that satisfaction with inpatient hospital care dropped slightly between 2000 and 2001 (from a mean score of 3.51 in 2000 to 3.49 in 2001), yet since 2001 it has improved slightly each year, rising to 3.50 in 2002 and 3.51 in 2003. (Rick Blizzard, "Patient Satisfaction Stable among Unstable Conditions," The Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing, The Gallup Organization, May 18, 2004.)

In view of the challenges faced by emergency departments, it is not surprising that these hospital departments received the lowest overall satisfaction scores. Still, in terms of consumer satisfaction, emergency departments did not lose ground during the four-year period. (See Figure 9.8.)

Outpatient services received the highest scores for consumer satisfaction. According to Blizzard in The Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing, outpatient surgery was the highest-rated area in terms of patient satisfaction, earning 3.68 and 3.69 out of a possible four across the four years of the survey. Outpatient testing and treatment also earned high marks. Since these services are often consumers' first encounters with hospitals, these high levels of satisfaction may have a favorable impact on consumers' overall perceptions of hospitals.

TABLE 9.1

Public opinion on concern about paying for health care, 2001–04
PLEASE TELL ME HOW CONCERNED YOU ARE RIGHT NOW ABOUT EACH OF THE FOLLOWING FINANCIAL MATTERS, BASED ON YOUR CURRENT FINANCIAL SITUATION?
*Less than 5%
(vol.) Volunteered response
SOURCE: Lydia Said, "Next, Please Tell Me How Concerned You Are Right Now about Each of the Following Financial Matters, Based on Your Current Financial Situation," in Gallup Poll News Service, The Gallup Organization, May 18, 2004, http://gallup.com/content/default.aspx?ci=11734&pg=2 (accessed May 30, 2004). Copyright © 2004 by The Gallup Organization. Reproduced by permission of The Gallup Organization.
A. Not being able to pay medical costs for normal health care
Very worried
%
Moderately worried
%
Not too worried
%
Not to worried at all
%
Doesn't apply (vol.)
%
No opinion
%
2004 Apr 5–8 21 16 24 36 3 *
2003 Apr 7–9 17 20 24 36 3 *
2002 Apr 8–11 18 17 26 36 2 1
2001 Apr 6–8 22 22 24 31 1 0
B. Not being able to pay medical costs in the event of a serious illness or accident
Very worried
%
Moderately worried
%
Not too worried
%
Not to worried at all
%
Doesn't apply (vol.)
%
No opinion
%
2004 Apr 5–8 26 21 24 27 2 *
2003 Apr 7–9 24 22 23 29 2
2002 Apr 8–11 21 24 25 28 1 1
2001 Apr 6–8 27 23 24 25 1 *

Interestingly, patient satisfaction with hospital care was also linked to the hospital's success in meeting patients' spiritual and emotional needs. (See Figure 9.9.) This finding, that satisfaction is associated with intangible qualities of the hospital experience such as sensitivity, attention, and responsiveness to emotional and spiritual needs, underscores the fact that many health care consumers assess the quality of service they receive in terms of the care and compassion displayed by hospital personnel.

Americans Still Trust Hospitals and Physicians but Pharmaceutical Companies Have Lost Ground

An April 2003 Harris Poll survey, in which Americans maligned health insurance companies and managed care plans for failing to adequately meet their needs, nevertheless found hospitals high on the list of companies that consumers credited with good performance records (Humphrey Taylor, "Supermarkets, Food Companies, Hospitals, and Banks Top the List of Industries Doing Good Job for Their Consumers," The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive, May 28, 2003). Nearly three-quarters (73%) of survey respondents said they felt hospitals were doing a good job of serving consumers.

In contrast, pharmaceutical companies are no longer held in high esteem. At the top of the list of companies Americans admired in 1997, pharmaceutical companies dropped from fourth place to eleventh place by 2003. Pharmaceutical companies' positive ratings have declined steadily from 79% in 1997, to 73% in 1998, 66% in 1999, 59% in 2000, to 49% in 2003. Industry observers attribute the sharp decline to adverse media publicity about prescription drug costs.

While physicians may not enjoy the preeminence and reputations for infallibility they held in the past, most Americans still have confidence in their personal physicians. More than 80% of respondents to a 2002 survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and National Public Radio said they trusted their doctor to take correct action "just about always" (48%) or "most of the time" (33%). The majority of respondents (77%) even expressed confidence that their physicians would inform them if a mistake were made in their care.

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