Mar 27, 2012

When more is not better

My colleagues at UC Davis recently published an important study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "The Cost of Satisfaction: A National Study of Patient Satisfaction, Health Care Utilization, Expenditures, and Mortality". Joshua Fenton and his fellow researchers found that
patients most satisfied with their doctors are more likely to be hospitalized, have greater healthcare costs and higher death rates than patients who are less satisfied with their care.

Says Dr. Fenton, "Patient satisfaction is a widely emphasized indicator of health-care quality, but our study calls into question whether increased patient satisfaction, as currently measured and used, is a wise goal in and of itself. Doctors may order requested tests or treatments to satisfy patients rather than out of medical necessity, which may expose patients to risks without benefits. A better approach is to explain carefully why a test or treatment isn't needed, but that takes time, which is in short supply during primary-care visits."

- Ulfat Shaikh, MD, MPH

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