Patient satisfaction survey scores are not an appropriate metric to differentiate performance among anesthesiologists

J Clin Anesth. 2020 Oct;65:109814. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinane.2020.109814. Epub 2020 May 7.


Study objective: With the focus of patient-centered care in healthcare organizations, patient satisfaction plays an increasingly important role in healthcare quality measurement. We sought to determine whether an automated patient satisfaction survey could be effectively used to identify outlying anesthesiologists.

Design: Retrospective Observational Study.

Setting: Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).

Measurements: Patient satisfaction data were obtained between October 24, 2016 and November 1, 2017. A multivariable ordered probit regression was conducted to evaluate the relationship between the mean scores of responses to Likert-scale questions on SurveyVitals' Anesthesia Patient Satisfaction Questionnaire 2. Fixed effects included demographics, clinical variables, providers and surgeons. Hypothesis tests to compare each individual anesthesiologist with the median-performing anesthesiologist were conducted.

Main results: We analyzed 10,528 surveys, with a 49.5% overall response rate. Younger patient (odds ratio (OR) 1.011 [per year of age]; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.008 to 1.014; p < 0.001), regional anesthesia (versus general anesthesia) (OR 1.695; 95% CI 1.186 to 2.422; p = 0.004) and daytime surgery (versus nighttime surgery) (OR 1.795; 95% CI 1.091 to 2.959; p = 0.035) were associated with higher satisfaction scores. Compared with the median-ranked anesthesiologist, we found the adjusted odds ratio for an increase in satisfaction score ranged from 0.346 (95% CI 0.158 to 0.762) to 1.649 (95% CI 0.687 to 3.956) for the lowest and highest scoring providers, respectively. Only 10.10% of anesthesiologists at our institution had an odds ratio for satisfaction with a 95% CI not inclusive of 1.

Conclusions: Patient satisfaction is impacted by multiple factors. There was very little information in patient satisfaction scores to discriminate the providers, after adjusting for confounding. While patient satisfaction scores may facilitate identification of extreme outliers among anesthesiologists, there is no evidence that this metric is useful for the routine evaluation of individual provider performance.

Keywords: Anesthesiologist; Patient satisfaction; Performance improvement; Survey score.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiologists*
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires