Study objectives: We sought to assess older patients' satisfaction with care in the emergency department and to identify factors associated with global satisfaction with care.
Methods: We performed a prospective cohort study of 778 patients 65 years of age and older presenting to an urban academic ED between 1995 and 1996, of whom 79% were black and 63% were female. A baseline survey at presentation to the ED asked for demographic information, medical history, and health-related quality of life information. A follow-up satisfaction survey asked patients to rate the care they received in the ED on a 5-point Likert scale (1=excellent, 5=poor). Overall satisfaction with care, dichotomized into responses of "excellent" versus all others, was the primary dependent variable in our bivariate analyses.
Results: Of respondents, 40% rated their ED care as "excellent." Variables significantly correlated with high satisfaction include having the perception of time spent in the ED as not "too long," having the emergency physicians and nurses clearly answer patients' questions, having a relationship of trust with an ED staff member, being told why tests were done, feeling involved in decisions about care as much as they wanted, having pain addressed fully, having a perception of greater health status, and having fewer comorbid conditions at the time of the ED visit. Results may be applicable only to urban academic EDs and may be limited by time elapsed between ED visits and follow-up surveys.
Conclusion: To improve quality of care for older adults in the ED, physicians should be more attentive to older patients' concerns and questions, recognize and aggressively treat pain, and reduce the patients' perception of a long waiting time.