Background: The purpose of this study was to identify factors contributing to patient and physician satisfaction during outpatient care visits, and to determine the degree to which physician and patient satisfaction are related.
Methods: The sample (N = 250) was drawn from the outpatient practice of the University of South Carolina Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Opinions were obtained by self-administered written questionnaires for physicians and by interviews with patients conducted by second-year medical students.
Results: Most encounters (88%) were satisfying for the physician. Resident physicians reported greater satisfaction than did faculty. Physicians were most satisfied with encounters in which they believed they had adequate time, were competent to address patient problems, and communicated successfully with the patient. Patient satisfaction was high (78% highly satisfied). Patients were more likely to be fully satisfied if they believed themselves to be in good health, did not wait long, and had health insurance. Unperceived patient dissatisfaction was associated with waiting time and a belief that the physician did not pay attention. No relationship was found between patient satisfaction and physician satisfaction.
Conclusions: The majority of patient care encounters were satisfying for both participants. The pervasive effect of waiting time on patient satisfaction emphasizes the need for careful scheduling. Lower satisfaction among faculty physicians should be explored to identify possible interventions to prevent physician burnout. Pressures from managed care organizations may decrease physician satisfaction if these take the form of reducing the time available for each patient or restricting physicians' ability to seek subspecialist consultation.