Doctors may also be influenced by the conditions of treatment centers, said Gayle Prybutok, a nurse and professor who studies emergency department conditions, who was not involved in the study.
Working conditions in hospital emergency departments can be harsh, she said by email. “Physicians who are exhausted from working 24 hour shifts with frequent sleep interruptions often have difficulty being cordial during patient interactions.”
Urgent care centers tend to have more limited hours and may have shorter wait times, she said. “Interactions with all providers are likely to be more cordial because stress in the environment is limited.”
Prybutok suggested it might be better to use these scores to compare quality ratings between similar types of settings and try to improve the way services are delivered to patients.
“Comparing apples to apples is more useful than comparing apples to oranges and trying to draw conclusions that lead to the design and implementation of process improvements,” Prybutok said.
Interactions between patients and doctors should not feel rushed, patients should be encouraged to ask questions and doctors should make sure they understand and give written instructions in the patient’s language, she said.
“Our study shows that satisfaction scores patients give their physicians are influenced by factors other than just the patient-physician relationship. Until we determine how to control for these other factors, we should be very cautious about using satisfaction scores to make comparisons between different physicians,” Jones said.