Background: Research on the effect of survey timing on patient-reported experiences and patient satisfaction with health services has produced contradictory results. The objective of this study was thus to assess the association between survey timing and patient-reported experiences with hospitals.
Methods: Secondary analyses of a national inpatient experience survey including 63 hospitals in the 5 health regions in Norway during the autumn of 2006. 10,912 (45%) patients answered a postal questionnaire after their discharge from hospital. Non-respondents were sent a reminder after 4 weeks. Multilevel linear regression analysis was used to assess the association between survey timing and patient-reported experiences, both bivariate analysis and multivariate analysis controlling for other predictors of patient experiences.
Results: Multivariate multilevel regression analysis revealed that survey time was significantly and negatively related to three of six patient-reported experience scales: doctor services (Beta = -0.424, p< 0.05), information about examinations (Beta = -0.566, p < 0.05) and organization (Beta = -0.528, p < 0.05). Patient age, self-perceived health and type of admission were significantly related to all patient-reported experience scales (better experiences with higher age, better health and routine admission), and all other predictors had at least one significant association with patient-reported experiences.
Conclusions: Survey time was significantly and negatively related to three of the six scales for patient-reported experiences with hospitals. Large differences in survey time across hospitals could be problematic for between-hospital comparisons, implying that survey time should be considered as a potential adjustment factor. More research is needed on this topic, including studies with other population groups, other data collection modes and a longer time span.