Objectives: We compared patient satisfaction among adults with diabetes treated in a Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system with the satisfaction of patients treated in a county-funded health care system. We also examined whether satisfaction differences reflected differences in the process of patient care.
Design: Cross-sectional telephone survey of patients recruited from outpatient clinics.
Subjects: Five hundred and thirty eight adults, including 310 patients from 4 VA clinics and 228 patients from 2 county clinics.
Measures: Overall satisfaction with care and satisfaction with 6 separate dimensions of care were measured using the Employee Health Care Value Survey.
Results: VA patients were more satisfied than were county patients overall and with 5 of 6 dimensions of their care. These differences increased when we adjusted for patients' sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. VA patients reported more diabetes counseling and shorter waiting times to see their doctor. Each of these self-reported process measures was positively correlated with satisfaction and, when taken into account, reduced the differences in satisfaction between the two systems. However, even when we controlled both for patient characteristics and the process of care, VA patients still were more satisfied than were county patients with their care overall as well as with their access to care, communication with providers, and the quality of their health outcomes.
Conclusions: In this study, VA patients with diabetes were more satisfied with their health care than were county patients. Perceived diabetes-related counseling and shorter waiting times contributed to differences between the systems in patient satisfaction but did not explain them completely.