Study objective: Patient satisfaction is an essential outcome measure in the diagnosis and treatment of acute chest pain in the emergency department. We compared patient satisfaction with the diagnostic protocol of a chest pain observation unit (CPOU) and standard inpatient hospitalization.
Methods: We prospectively studied patients who presented to the ED with chest pain and were found to have a low risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) but who still might have benefited from a diagnostic protocol to rule out AMI. Consenting patients (N = 104) were randomized to the CPOU (experimental) arm or the hospital inpatient (control) arm and assessed for satisfaction by means of an interview before hospital discharge.
Results: The CPOU protocol scored higher on four summary ratings of overall patient satisfaction. Correlations between overall satisfaction, number, and type of problems with care, and patient characteristics demonstrated content validity and revealed strengths and improvements that might be made in CPOUs.
Conclusion: Patients were more satisfied with rapid diagnosis in the CPOU than with inpatient stays for acute chest pain. Our findings add important information to the standard practice of weighing clinical and cost outcomes between two medical care alternatives.