Which aspects of non-clinical quality of care are most important? Results from WHO's general population surveys of "health systems responsiveness" in 41 countries

Soc Sci Med. 2008 May;66(9):1939-50. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.12.002. Epub 2008 Mar 3.


Quality of care research has reached some agreement on concepts like structure, process and outcome, and non-clinical versus clinical processes of care. These concepts are commonly explored through surveys measuring patient experiences, yet few surveys have focused on patient, or "user", priorities across different quality dimensions. Population surveys on priorities can contribute to, although not replace participation in, policy decision making. Using 105,806 survey interview records from the World Health Organization's (WHO's) general population surveys in 41 countries, this paper describes the relative importance of eight domains in the non-clinical quality of care concept WHO calls "health systems responsiveness". Responsiveness domains are divided into interpersonal domains (dignity, autonomy, communication and confidentiality) and structural domains (quality of basic amenities, choice, access to social support networks and prompt attention). This paper explores variations in domain importance by country-level variables (country of residence, human development, health system expenditure, and "geographic zones") and by subpopulations defined by sex, age, education, health status, and utilization. Most respondents selected prompt attention as the most important domain. Dignity was selected second, followed by communication. Access to social support networks was identified as the least important domain. In general, convergence in rankings was stronger across subpopulations within countries than across countries. Yet even across diverse countries, there was more convergence than divergence in views. These results provide a ranking of quality of care criteria for consideration during health reform processes further to the usual emphasis on clinical quality and supply-side efficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Confidentiality
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Global Health*
  • Health Services Research / organization & administration*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / organization & administration
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • World Health Organization*