Background: Patient satisfaction surveys are widely used to measure patients' opinions of the quality of the health care they have received. There are a variety of methods for distributing patient satisfaction surveys. Different distribution methods may yield significantly different satisfaction ratings.
Objective: We sought to compare survey ratings obtained via 2 distribution methods: handout versus mailed.
Design: Patients were randomized to receive either a handout survey or a mailed survey.
Subjects: Patients who had an appointment with a family practice provider in one of the regional outpatient centers of a large medical clinic during a 3-week period.
Measures: An 11-item visit-specific patient satisfaction survey was used to survey patient satisfaction.
Results: Handout surveys yielded higher satisfaction scores than mailed surveys. The response rate was higher with handout surveys than with mailed surveys. However, handout surveys were returned with more skipped questions, a lower variation in ratings, and fewer written comments than the mailed surveys.
Conclusions: Both quantitative and qualitative differences between the 2 distribution methods were revealed. Attempts to compare data obtained from the 2 different distribution methods need to be approached with caution.