A new study points out the way extraneous events can skew survey results. CME providers attempting to measure education outcomes in terms of patient satisfaction, read on:

Patient ratings of health care plummeted during the week of the September 11th terrorist attacks according to a nationwide study. The data show that overnight hospital patients were significantly less satisfied with the quality of care they received immediately following the attacks compared to patients who were discharged from hospitals prior to the attacks. In particular, patients' evaluations of their physicians, nurses, and technologists dropped after September 11th, but rose again in the subsequent week to normal levels.

The attacks appeared to have temporarily changed patient evaluations of direct care providers, but did not appear to impact patient evaluations of facility issues (such as rooms and meals) or administrative processes (such as admission and discharge).

The marked drop in patient satisfaction for the week of September 11th likely reflects the stress--a reduced sense of personal security, a greater sense of mortality, and increased apprehensions--that both hospital staff and patients were experiencing in the wake of the attacks. The stress that week manifested itself in disruptions of hospital staff and a drop in productivity and attention to detail. Conversely, the stress manifested itself in patients being more demanding about their own medical care and more sensitive to service breakdowns in the hospital.

The study, conducted by Press Ganey Associates, is based on proprietary data from 108,742 patients discharged from 942 hospitals in 48 states during the month prior to and the month following September 11th, 2001. The findings reinforce the efforts for enhanced disaster preparedness plans being developed by the federal government and the American Hospital Association.

Press Ganey Associates, Inc. is a vendor of patient satisfaction measurement and improvement services. The firm specializes in producing satisfaction surveys, management reports, and national comparative databases to monitor customer satisfaction in health care delivery systems. Reporting instruments are available for more than 20 health care services. The firm's consulting services division assists in developing actionable plans for performance and satisfaction improvement. Press Ganey Associates--founded in 1985 and headquartered in South Bend, Indiana--serves approximately 6,000 health care facilities and processes more than seven million completed customer surveys annually.