Patient satisfaction with health care services in changing socio-economic environment
Centre of General Practitioners
Patient satisfaction as an indicator of quality of health care services, is now being introduced into the health care system in Lithuania. Health care providers become more interested in the consumer�s opinion, considering patient satisfaction as an indicator of quality of services provided and an indicator of weaknesses in a service.
Patient satisfaction is known to be dependent on various other factors: outcome of care, health status, socio-demographic characteristics of patient, characteristics of health care system itself, meeting patient expectations and others. Several studies (D. Jankauskiene et al. (1998), survey of Vilnius Regional Governmental Sickness fund (2000), Kaunas University of Medicine project �Equity in health and health care in Lithuania. A situation analysis� (1998)), performed during last years in Lithuania, support the opinion that at least some aspects of consumer satisfaction may originate in factors outside of the health care system. Some findings of these studies will be presented. As some of these indicators are changing along with changes in the socio-economic environment, their influence on the patient satisfaction can be considered as a factor causing certain limitations on the validity of consumer�s satisfaction.
The research data indicate that satisfaction rates can change when the standard of comparison changes even though the object of evaluation (health care services) remains the same. Health care reform based on the ideology of improving health care delivery has an influence on public expectations. Development of the private sector in the Lithuanian health care system also changes patients� perceptions of �better services�, increasing competition between health care providers.
Recognising the importance of patient satisfaction and its influence on further compliance, health care outcomes and utilisation of health care services is necessary. Improving health care services requires an understanding of the importance of both patients� satisfaction and it�s limitations. Knowing the nature of satisfaction, its consequences and patient preferences for health care, we can more effectively use the limited health care resources, trying to reduce the gap between consumers� requirements and possibilities of health care system.