Quantitative and qualitative differences between handout and mailed patient satisfaction surveys

Med Care. 2005 Mar;43(3):276-81. doi: 10.1097/00005650-200503000-00010.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Family Practice / organization & administration
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Postal Service
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States