Tip of the Week: Patient Satisfaction is A Gateway to Bigger and Better Things

Gauging patients’ satisfaction with pharmacy services provides an opportunity perhaps for improved patient outcomes in certain situations.

Patient and customer satisfaction have been studied and written about ad nauseum for decades. After all, who doesn’t want to be satisfied? If a patient or customer is dissatisfied with you or your business, it is unlikely that they will patronize it in the future.

But that premise does not tell the entire story. There is a wide continuum of patient and customer perceptions as they relate to satisfaction, and there are other key considerations, or other perceptions and outcomes that must be considered concomitantly.

Maxwell et al. examined patient satisfaction and other outcomes at a pharmacist-led telehealth clinic for Veterans Administration (VA) patients.1 To measure patient satisfaction, they used an instrument called the Satisfaction with Pharmacists (SWiP) scale. Pharmacists and managers should consider using patient satisfaction instrumentation on occasion so as to gauge areas of customer service that are in good shape and areas where improvements could be made.

In selecting a patient satisfaction tool, it is important to select one that is brief enough for you to administer to patients or provide to them (on paper or online) with their purchase. At the same time, it is also important to select a tool that is valid, or measures what it purports to measure. The SWiP is made up of just 10 items that a patient can complete in less than a minute. It asks patients for a relative frequency in which the pharmacist provides proper advice, is aware of needs, responds to needs, and the extent to which the encounter with the pharmacist was convenient and comfortable.

Maxwell et al. found that the VA patients were satisfied with the service. Additionally, they found a correlation between patients’ satisfaction with their glycemic control, as measured by decreases in A1C levels.1 This is tremendously important, but it should be noted that the relationship between patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes has been tenuous overall.

Another patient satisfaction instrument that underwent very rigorous testing is called the PSPSQ 2.0.2 It has 22 items scaled on levels of agreement regarding whether the pharmacist addressed concerns, was professional, was committed to the patient’s health, was respectful, and whether the patient would recommend the pharmacist to others. This last item is perhaps among the most important, and readers have probably seen similar items on surveys from restaurants and other establishments. That is because someone will go out of their way to recommend something only if they are very or extremely satisfied. Merely being satisfied is not enough. Being highly satisfied will likely feed into feelings of commitment and loyalty, so that if, for example, a competitor runs a sale on certain products or services, the loyal patient will still patronize your business instead of the one with the sale.

Gauging patients’ satisfaction with pharmacy services is important. It provides an opportunity perhaps for improved patient outcomes in certain situations, since these patients might be more participatory in something in which they are satisfied. It also serves as the basis for commitment and loyalty, but satisfaction must be extremely high for that to occur. Pharmacy managers can gauge satisfaction with the use of published tools that are easy to administer. They just need to be sure that they are measuring what they want to measure, interpret the findings the right way,and understand the limitations of measuring satisfaction, alone.

Additional information about Marketing Fundamentals and Customer Service can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, is a professor of social and behavioral pharmacy at the Touro University California College of Pharmacy.

REFERENCES

1. Maxwell LG, McFarland S, Baker JW, Cassidy RF. Evaluation of the impact of a pharmacist-led telehealth clinical on diabetes-related goals of therapy in a veteran population. Pharmaco. 2016;36(3):348-356.

2. Sakharkar P, Bounthavong M, Hirsch JD, Morello CM, et al. Development and validation of PSPSQ 2.0 measuring patient satisfaction with pharmacist services. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2015;11(3):487-498.