OBJECTIVES: To measure satisfaction with medical visits in various health care settings and to assess the extent to which differences in satisfaction scores between health care settings can be attributed to patients' characteristics. DESIGN: This was a cross sectional survey to measure seven dimensions of patient satisfaction. SETTINGS: Ambulatory visits to 'gatekeepers' or specialists in a newly established managed care organisation, a private group practice, or a university hospital outpatient clinic in Geneva, Switzerland. PATIENTS: There were altogether 1027 adult patients (81% participation rate). RESULTS: Patients who consulted physicians in the private group practice reported higher levels of satisfaction (overall mean 83.2 on a scale between 0 and 100) than university clinic patients (79.7), patients of independent specialists within the managed plan (78.5), and patients of managed plan gatekeepers (69.8, intergroup differences p < 0.001). Differences between settings were reduced after adjustment for sex, age, country of origin, general practitioner versus specialist visit, and scheduled versus urgent visit (adjusted scores: 80.8, 78.8, 77.6, and 72.7 in the four settings, p < 0.001). Intergroup differences were largest for general satisfaction, but small and non-significant for satisfaction with explanations given by the physician and for time spent with the patient. CONCLUSIONS: Patient satisfaction varied widely between health care settings. Differences in satisfaction ratings could be ascribed only partly to disparities in patient populations. Patients of managed plan gatekeepers were least satisfied, presumably because they could not choose their physician freely. Comparison of patient satisfaction across health care settings can provide a basis for targeted quality improvement initiatives.
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