Patient satisfaction: how do qualitative comments relate to quantitative scores on a satisfaction survey?

Qual Manag Health Care. Jan-Mar 2009;18(1):3-18. doi: 10.1097/01.QMH.0000344589.61971.41.


Objective: This study was designed to determine whether there are differences in how patients quantitatively rate their inpatient service in a given section of a patient satisfaction survey based on the types of qualitative comments they make about that given section.

Methods: The population under study was patients discharged from The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at Ohio State University from April 1 to June 30, 2006. A sample of 1468 questionnaires was mailed. A total of 446 completed questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 30%, and 1068 comments were offered by the respondents.

Results: An analysis of variance determined statistically significant differences between the ratings and the comment types in all 10 sections of the survey. A Bonferroni post hoc test revealed that the scale ratings were higher for patients who made positive comments than for patients who made negative comments for 8 of the 10 survey sections. A positive comment produced a higher mean score than did a negative comment.

Conclusion: The study results offer empirical evidence that there are differences in how patients quantitatively rate the services received in a hospital based on patient comment types. Hospital staff interpreting patient satisfaction survey results could say that negative comments produce lower quantitative ratings than do positive comments.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ohio
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult