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Postal survey methodology to assess patient satisfaction in a suburban emergency medical services system: an observational study

DOI: 10.1186/1471-227x-7-5

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Patients transported between January 2001 and December 2004 were mailed a brief satisfaction questionnaire. The questionnaire was printed on a pre-addressed, postage paid postcard and consisted of five questions that used a five-point Likert scale to assess satisfaction with EMS personnel and services provided. Three open-ended questions assessed concerns, the most important service provided, and methods for improving service. Survey response rate was the primary outcome of interest. The Chi-square test was used to compare rates between years.The survey required about 6 man hours and cost about $70 per month. Overall response rate was 32.0% (857/2764; 95CI 30.3% – 33.9%). During the first year, response rate was 42.6% (95CI 38.5% – 46.8%), but was significantly lower in subsequent years (29.0% in year 2, 30.8% in year 3, and 27.6% in year 4, p < 0.05). There were 847/851 respondents (99.5%) who were satisfied or very satisfied with their EMS experience. Three patients felt the service was adequate and one was very unsatisfied. Open-ended questions suggested that interpersonal communications were the single most important contributor to patient satisfaction. Patients also reported that response times and technical aspects of care were important to them.Postal surveys for assessing patient satisfaction following EMS transport can achieve comparable response rates to similar surveys in other health care settings. Response rates did not decline after the second year of patient surveys, suggesting some stability after the initial year. Interpersonal communication was determined to be the single most important contributor to patient satisfaction.Objective information to assure the quality of care delivered by EMS systems is in demand by governmental agencies, insurance companies, and customers [1]. Standard quality indicators such as response time and outcome data may not reflect everything that patients consider important. Patient satisfaction is a quality indicator that


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