Patient satisfaction and quality care: Evaluating a contentious partnership

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

September 9, 2015

Consider the following scenario: A man, traveling by train, has a layover in a small town. With two hours to kill, he decides to venture into town for a haircut.

Once he arrives downtown, he sees two barbershops. The first one is dirty and grungy with hair all over the floor. The barber is unkempt, wears a dirty apron, and has a horrible haircut. The second barbershop is immaculately cared for, the floors are swept, and the barber is well-dressed and handsome with a great haircut.

Which one should the man choose?

You might be inclined to opt for the cleaner, well-manicured barber, but as Stuart J. Youngner, MD, professor of bioethics and psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland points out, the disheveled barber would be the better choice. After all, he cut the other barber's hair.

Youngner shared this anecdote while talking about a recent paper he co-authored for The Hastings Center, a nonprofit research institute that focuses its research on "fundamental ethical issues in the areas of health, medicine, and the environment." The paper, entitled Patient-Satisfaction Surveys on a Scale of 0 to 10: Improving Healthcare or Leading It Astray?, hones in on an issue that many within the healthcare industry have questioned: Does high patient satisfaction correlate to better quality care?

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