This review presents issues arising from an analysis of over 100 papers published in the field of patient satisfaction. The published output appearing in the medical and nursing literature which incorporated the term "patient satisfaction" rose to a peak of over 1000 papers annually in 1994, reflecting changes in service management especially in the U.K. and U.S.A. over the past decade. An introductory section discusses the setting and measurement of patient satisfaction within this wider context of changes in service delivery. Various models are examined that have attempted to define and interpret the idea of determining individual perceptions of the quality of health care delivered. Determinants of satisfaction are examined in relation to the literature on expectations, and demographic and psychosocial variables. These are distinguished from the multidimensional components of satisfaction as aspects of the delivery of care, identified by many authors. The review highlights the complexity and breadth of the literature in this field, the existence of which is often not acknowledged by researchers presenting the findings of studies.