Measuring patients' perceived health
and satisfaction with care
Why measure at all?
- To find out how the patient feels from the patient's point of view, and not merely the doctor's.
- To get an overview of the health state of a patient in a systematic way.
- To regularly, reliably and easily survey a few selected areas, where the patient might very well have noticed minor irregularities, but not recognized their medical relevance right now, and consequently would not pass on his knowledge as long as they are not being asked by the doctor.
- To identify and to document problematic areas, as a basis for definition of treatment needs and treatment goals.
- To help making decisions on which treatments should be most beneficial for individuals or groups of patients.
- To monitor and to document the effects of a treatment as they are perceived by the patient.
- To evaluate the results or outcomes of medical measures, either in clinical trials or in caring for individual patients.
- To allow the care-giver to critically appraise his own performance in the process of quality assurance.
Objective vs. subjective parameters - hard vs. soft data
Objective measures are acquired by a health professional using some reference which is external to the patient. Many are commonly used (e.g. blood pressure, ECG...), but most are limited to the physical domain of health.
Subjective measures are presented by the patient, and only they relate his current experience to his own internal reference values. This means: Asking for the patient's point of view, and not merely for the doctor's.
Scientific literature says that results from valid subjective measures are not merely soft, but actually very hard data. They provide very meaningful information about problems experienced by patients, about how beneficial a treatment may be, or about what the prognosis of a patient may be.
Health related quality of life
is seen in the scientific context as something that includes the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being of a person. A huge variety of instruments (often questionnaires for self-administration, or interviews) have been developed to assess patients' quality of life.
Patient satisfaction with care
is one parameter that can be measured and optimized in the process of continuous improvement of the quality of medical care.