What does satisfaction with wait times mean to cancer patients?

Patient satisfaction is an important element of quality improvement and patient-centered care, and is an indicator of the public's confidence in the health care system. Although shorter wait times are believed intuitively to lead to higher satisfaction, studies have demonstrated the importance of many other factors which contribute to patients' satisfaction with their wait time experiences.

The current study explores the factors that shape patients' satisfaction with their overall wait times (i. e. from symptom to treatment).

We conducted qualitative interviews with 60 breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer patients to examine the reasons behind patients' satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their wait time experiences. We purposefully recruited satisfied and unsatisfied participants from our larger survey sample. Using a semi-structured interview guide, patients were asked about their wait time experiences and the reasons behind their (dis)satisfaction. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using a thematic approach.

Patients' perceptions of satisfaction with wait times were influenced by three interrelated dimensions: the interpersonal skills of treating physicians (which included expressions/demonstrations of empathy and concern, quality of information exchange, accountability for errors), coordination (which included assistance navigating the health system, scheduling of appointments, sharing information between providers, coordination in scheduling appointments, and sharing of information ), and timeliness of care (which referred to providers' responsiveness to patients' symptoms, coverage during provider absences, and shared sense of urgency between patient and providers). Providers' willingness to "trouble shoot" and acknowledge errors/delays were particularly influential in patients' overall perception of their wait times.

We described three dimensions of wait-related satisfaction: physicians' interpersonal skills, coordination of care, and timeliness of care, which are often interrelated and overlapping. Furthermore, while patients wait-related satisfaction was typically based on multiple interactions with different providers, positive or negative experiences with a single provider, often (but not always) the family physician, had a substantial impact on the overall satisfaction or dissatisfaction with wait time experiences. The findings provide a conceptual basis for the development of validated instruments to measure wait time-related patient satisfaction.

BMC cancer. 2015 Dec 28*** epublish ***

Maria Mathews, Dana Ryan, Donna Bulman

Division of Community Health & Humanities, Health Sciences Centre, Room 2837, St. John's, NL, A1B 3V6, Canada. Division of Community Health & Humanities, Health Sciences Centre, Room 2849, St. John's, NL, A1B 3V6, Canada.  Faculty of Nursing, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5A3, Canada. 

PubMed

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