Orthopedics

Feature Article 

Association Between Nonmodifiable Demographic Factors and Patient Satisfaction Scores in Spine Surgery Clinics

Bradley C. Johnson, MD; Dennis Vasquez-Montes, MS; Leah Steinmetz, BA; Aaron J. Buckland, MBBS, FRACS; John A. Bendo, MD; Jeffrey A. Goldstein, MD, FACS; Thomas J. Errico, MD; Charla R. Fischer, MD

Abstract

The Press Ganey survey is the most widely used instrument for measuring patient satisfaction. Understanding the factors that influence these surveys may permit better use of survey results and may direct interventions to increase patient satisfaction. Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys administered to ambulatory spine surgery clinic patients within a large tertiary care network from May 2016 to September 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. Mean comparison testing was performed to measure associations between patient demographics and responses to “overall provider rating” and “recommend this provider's office” survey questions. Mean difference to achieve significance was set at α<0.05. A multivariate analysis was performed to determine independent factors. A total of 1400 survey responses from the offices of 11 orthopedic spine surgeons were included. Patients 18 to 34 years old had significantly lower responses to the overall provider rating question than older patients (P<.001), and increasing patient age was correlated with improved ratings. Highest education level was inversely correlated with satisfaction scores, with patients who had attained graduate level education having the lowest satisfaction scores (P=.001). Those with commercial insurance had significantly lower ratings for recommend this provider's office (P=.042) and overall provider rating (P=.022) questions than those with other insurance types. Patients administered the survey on paper had significantly lower ratings than those administered the survey online (P=.006). Provider ratings were significantly higher when the sex and ethnicity of the patient were concordant with the provider (P=.021). This study showed that independent, nonmodifiable factors such as age, education level, and survey mode were significantly associated with the satisfaction of ambulatory spine surgery clinic patients. [Orthopedics. 2019; 42(3):143–148.]

Abstract

The Press Ganey survey is the most widely used instrument for measuring patient satisfaction. Understanding the factors that influence these surveys may permit better use of survey results and may direct interventions to increase patient satisfaction. Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys administered to ambulatory spine surgery clinic patients within a large tertiary care network from May 2016 to September 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. Mean comparison testing was performed to measure associations between patient demographics and responses to “overall provider rating” and “recommend this provider's office” survey questions. Mean difference to achieve significance was set at α<0.05. A multivariate analysis was performed to determine independent factors. A total of 1400 survey responses from the offices of 11 orthopedic spine surgeons were included. Patients 18 to 34 years old had significantly lower responses to the overall provider rating question than older patients (P<.001), and increasing patient age was correlated with improved ratings. Highest education level was inversely correlated with satisfaction scores, with patients who had attained graduate level education having the lowest satisfaction scores (P=.001). Those with commercial insurance had significantly lower ratings for recommend this provider's office (P=.042) and overall provider rating (P=.022) questions than those with other insurance types. Patients administered the survey on paper had significantly lower ratings than those administered the survey online (P=.006). Provider ratings were significantly higher when the sex and ethnicity of the patient were concordant with the provider (P=.021). This study showed that independent, nonmodifiable factors such as age, education level, and survey mode were significantly associated with the satisfaction of ambulatory spine surgery clinic patients. [Orthopedics. 2019; 42(3):143–148.]

Patient satisfaction surveys are gaining clinical importance as they are used as a metric to compare quality of care delivery between institutions and guide reimbursement. Press Ganey Associates is the largest administrator of satisfaction surveys in the United States, with more than 10,000 centers and approximately 50% of hospitals using their services.1 In the ambulatory care setting, the Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey is widely used to assess patient satisfaction.2 Medicare's value-based purchasing program provides financial rewards to hospitals with higher patient satisfaction survey scores,3 and there is evidence that modifiable factors such as improved communication with nurses and physicians, shorter length of hospital stay, and pain management are associated with higher satisfaction.4–8

The value-based purchasing program model is predicated on satisfaction as a modifiable attribute used to compare institutions; however, there is an increasing body of evidence indicating that nonmodifiable factors are significantly associated with patient satisfaction. Studies in both nonorthopedic specialties and non-spine orthopedic subspecialties have suggested that age, education, and sex influence patient satisfaction.9–13 The relationship between nonmodifiable patient characteristics and Press Ganey survey scores for ambulatory spine surgery patients remains unclear. Understanding the factors that influence Press Ganey surveys of outpatient spine surgery patients may permit better use of survey results and may direct interventions to increase spine patient satisfaction.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether nonmodifiable demographic factors affected the satisfaction scores on the Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey of ambulatory spine patients in a large tertiary care network.

Materials and Methods

The Press Ganey database (Press Ganey Associates, Wakefield, Massachusetts) was queried for all Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Health-care Providers and Systems surveys administered to ambulatory spine surgery clinic patients at the authors' institution between May 2016 and September 2017. All visits were within an academic tertiary care network of ambulatory centers staffed by 11 fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons. Surveys were randomly administered to 20% of patients, either on paper or online at each patient's discretion, after their visit.

Patient and physician demographic factors were gathered for each visit linked with a completed survey. The six age ranges of the Press Ganey database were used: 0 to 17 years, 18 to 34 years, 35 to 49 years, 50 to 64 years, 65 to 79 years, and 80 to 100 years. Responses to “overall provider rating” (OPR) and “recommend this provider's office” (RP) survey questions were used as surrogates for overall patient satisfaction (Table 1). The OPR question was answered on a scale of 0 to 10 by the respondent. The responses to the RP question were converted to ordinal variables to allow scaling of the satisfaction score, such that 3 was the “Yes, definitely” response and 1 was the “No” response. The results for each question were then normalized to a 0 to 100 scale to allow direct comparison between the two questions.

Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Questions Analyzed

Table 1:

Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Questions Analyzed

Mean comparison testing was performed to calculate associations between survey responses, patient demographics, and physician demographics. A multivariate regression analysis was performed to determine independent factors. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS Statistics for Windows version 23.0 software (IBM, Armonk, New York). Significance level was set at α<0.05.

Results

A total of 1400 survey responses were included (Table 2). There were 605 female patients (43.2%) and 781 male patients (55.8%). Sex was not reported for 14 patients (1%). Female patients tended to have higher satisfaction scores than male patients; however, this difference was not significant.

Press Ganey Satisfaction Score Resultsa

Table 2:

Press Ganey Satisfaction Score Results

The mean age of the patients was 54.9±17.3 years. The most common age range of the patients was 50 to 64 years, which represented 499 responses (36.0%). Patients 18 to 34 years old had significantly lower scores for the OPR (mean, 85.8) and RP (mean, 81.0) questions than all other patients (OPR mean, 95.3, P<.001; RP mean, 92.6, P<.001). Among adult patients, a weak correlation was noted between increasing patient age and improved satisfaction scores (OPR: R=0.113, P<.001; RP: R=0.108, P<.001) (Figure 1). In contrast, pediatric patients had higher mean satisfaction scores than nonpediatric patients (OPR, 97.3 vs 94.4, respectively, P=.01; RP, 93.0 vs 91.7, respectively, P=.684).

Correlation between age and satisfaction scores.

Figure 1:

Correlation between age and satisfaction scores.

Education level showed a significant inverse correlation with satisfaction scores; however, the correlation was weak (OPR: R=−0.114, P<.001; RP: R=−0.122, P<.001). Satisfaction scores tended to trend downward after attending college (Figure 2). Patients who had attained graduate level education had the lowest satisfaction scores (OPR, P=.001; RP, P<.001).

Correlation between highest education level and satisfaction scores.

Figure 2:

Correlation between highest education level and satisfaction scores.

Insurance type was significantly associated with satisfaction score. Patients with commercial insurance had significantly lower mean scores for the RP (P=.042) and OPR (P=.022) questions than patients with other insurance types. Following commercial insurance, which had the lowest mean scores (OPR, 93.6; RP, 90.0), satisfaction increased in the following order: workers' compensation (OPR, 94.1; RP, 93.5), Medicaid (OPR, 95.1; RP, 94.0), Medicare (OPR, 96.4; RP, 94.0), and no insurance (OPR, 98.4; RP, 96.5).

Most patients chose to complete the survey online, with only 193 completing it on paper (13.9%). Patients who completed the survey on paper had significantly lower ratings than those who completed the survey online (OPR, P<.001; RP, P=.006).

Ethnicity was associated with significant differences in satisfaction scores when one ethnic group was compared with the rest of the cohort. Whites represented 75% of the patient population and had significantly higher satisfaction scores than the rest of the patient population (OPR mean, 95.3 vs 92.2, P=.006; RP mean, 93.0 vs 88.5, P=.013, respectively). Asians had lower mean satisfaction scores (OPR, 86.6; RP, 83.5) than the rest of the cohort (OPR, 95.1; RP, 92.0), although they represented only 5% of the total study sample. When the sex and the ethnicity of the patient were in concordance with the sex and the ethnicity of the provider (28.1% of visits), mean satisfaction was significantly higher than when there was no concordance (OPR, 96.1 vs 94.0, P=.021; RP, 94.0 vs 91.0, P=.023, respectively). These results should be interpreted with caution because the sample was small for many of the relationships.

Multivariate analysis showed that age, education, concordance of sex and ethnicity, and survey medium (for OPR) maintained significant relationships with satisfaction scores in the presence of one another (Table 3).

Multivariate Regression Results

Table 3:

Multivariate Regression Results

Discussion

As health care shifts to a value-based model, patient satisfaction is an increasingly important metric for quality of care.3,14,15 The authors' goal was to determine if nonmodifiable factors inherent to specific patient populations were associated with patient satisfaction survey results. This study showed that independent, nonmodifiable factors such as age, education level, and survey mode were associated with Press Ganey satisfaction survey results at a large tertiary care institution.

Patients 18 to 34 years old had lower satisfaction scores than older patients, and increasing age showed a significant positive correlation with satisfaction among adult patients. In a cross-sectional sample of 20,901 multispecialty outpatients, elderly patients (>65 years) had significantly higher satisfaction scores than non-elderly patients.16 Similarly, Martin et al9 found that in a large cohort of surgical patients, younger patients were less likely to be satisfied with their care. Younger age has also been associated with lower satisfaction scores in spine surgery clinics.17,18 In contrast, Mistry et al5 found that in an inpatient hospital cohort of patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty, age was not a significant factor influencing satisfaction; however, this was an inpatient cohort that examined associations with communication as well as pain. Finally, the pediatric patients in the study also had high satisfaction. It is possible that pediatric patients score higher in satisfaction; however, this is a heterogeneous population from a developmental standpoint, and older guardians may have assisted in responding to the survey questions.

Patients with a college education or higher had significantly lower scores than less educated patients, and increasing age showed a significant inverse correlation with satisfaction. Studies in nonorthopedic specialties have shown that lower education level is associated with higher satisfaction.19,20 In addition, Abtahi el al17 found this relationship to be true among orthopedic patients responding to outpatient Press Ganey surveys.

Paper surveys were associated with higher satisfaction scores than online surveys. There was the potential for confounding in this result because the survey medium was not distributed randomly, although the relationship remained significant on multivariate analysis. Little has been published about the effect of survey medium on patient satisfaction surveys, with one study showing no difference between paper and online satisfaction surveys in a homogeneous population of Canadian school children.21

Race was associated with differing satisfaction scores within the current data set, with Asians having the lowest satisfaction scores. Male sex was associated with a trend toward lower satisfaction, although this did not reach significance. When the patient's race and sex were concordant with the race and sex of the treating physician, satisfaction was significantly higher. Young et al22 reported that racial background was associated with satisfaction scores. Furthermore, several multispecialty studies have shown that patients are more likely to choose race-concordant physicians and that race concordance leads to higher satisfaction.23,24 These findings reinforce the importance of cultural competence among physicians.

The value-based purchasing model used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to compare institutions assumes that patient populations given the same level of care at separate institutions will respond similarly to satisfaction surveys. This study showed that within a single tertiary care network, patients with different demographic backgrounds can have significantly different levels of satisfaction. These results suggest that it may be challenging to use patient satisfaction surveys to compare institutions whose patient populations have different demographics.

Patient satisfaction is multifactorial and may reflect the ability of a provider and an organization to address the needs of the patient population served. For example, highly educated patients may be frustrated by practices in centers adapted to care for less educated patients. The best satisfaction scores may result from concordance of patient demographics with the type of patient a center is best suited to serve. Future studies will need to compare the effect of nonmodifiable demographics at multiple institutions to elucidate the effect of institutional differences on satisfaction survey results.

This study had several limitations, including the flaws inherent to a nonrandomized, retrospective analysis conducted at a single center. The survey results may not be generalizable to other institutions adapted to serve a different subset of patients. The anonymized nature of the Press Ganey data does not allow visit-specific details, such as visit length and wait time, to be collected and analyzed. Similarly, it is not possible to collect patient-specific characteristics, such as diagnosis and comorbid conditions. The surveys may also have nonresponse bias, as survey completion is encouraged but optional. For example, Tyser et al25 found that younger and male patients were less likely to respond to the Press Ganey survey. In the current study, survey completion percentage varied by surgeon, suggesting that there may be confounding factors affecting patient response rates. Finally, there is a possibility that allowing patients to complete the survey using the medium of their choice (paper vs electronic) biases results; however, the authors attempted to control for this in their multivariate analysis.

Conclusion

This study showed that independent, nonmodifiable factors such as age, education level, and survey mode were significantly associated with the satisfaction of ambulatory spine patients. Future studies should examine the associations of non-modifiable demographics with satisfaction at multiple institutions to yield more generalizable results and to allow more meaningful comparisons between institutions when using patient satisfaction as a surrogate for care quality.

References

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Press Ganey Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Questions Analyzed

QuestionAnswers (Ordinal Score)
1. Using any number from 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst provider possible and 10 is the best provider possible, what number would you use to rate this provider?0–10
2. Would you recommend this provider's office to your family and friends?Yes, definitely (3) Yes, somewhat (2) No (1)

Press Ganey Satisfaction Score Resultsa

VariableOverall Provider RatingRecommend This Provider's Office


Mean±SD ScoreNo. of PatientsPMean±SD ScoreNo. of PatientsP
Age group, y
  0 to 1797.3±9.383.00093.0±21.083.000
  18 to 3485.8±26.210381.0±33.5103
  35 to 4991.6±21.125188.5±29.0252
  50 to 6495.6±14.149993.0±21.0496
  65 to 7996.7±12.440694.0±20.0407
  80 to 10097.3±6.34696.5±12.546
Sex
  Male94.0±16.9781.14891.0±24.5781.207
  Female95.3±15.360592.5±22.5606
Education
  8th grade or less97.4±6.713.00191.5±19.512.000
  Some high school97.2±13.62496.0±20.524
  High school graduate98.0±9.219597.0±14.5192
  Some college95.8±15.136694.0±20.5365
  4-year college degree93.3±18.631989.5±26.5320
  More than 4-year college degree92.7±18.145488.5±26.5456
Insurance
  Workers' compensation94.1±18.858.02293.5±21.555.042
  No insurance98.4±4.95896.5±12.559
  Commercial93.6±18.085390.0±26.0854
  Medicaid95.1±14.38994.0±21.089
  Medicare96.4±12.333094.0±20.0330
Ethnicity
  Hispanic95.8±14.9134.44194.5±19.0134.242
  Not Hispanic94.7±16.192.0±23.5
  White95.3±15.01043.00693.0±22.51042.013
  Not white92.2±19.688.5±27.5
  Black96.1±13.9111.30995.5±17.5111.023
  Not black94.4±16.491.5±24.0
  Asian86.6±25.178.00483.5±31.078.014
  Not Asian95.1±15.492.0±23.0
Same sex and ethnicity as provider
  Yes96.1±13.7384.02194.0±20.5384.023
  No94.0±17.191.0±25.0
Survey mode
  Online94.1±16.91195.00091.0±24.51194.006
  On paper97.4±10.919395.0±16.5193

Multivariate Regression Results

Question and VariableUnstandardized CoefficientsStandardized CoefficientsP


BetaStandard ErrorBetat
Recommend this provider's office
  Constant2.0530.05537.119.000
  Age−0.2290.051−0.123−4.517.000
  Education level−0.0510.011−0.122−4.499.000
  Concordant sex and ethnicity0.0620.0280.0612.241.025
  Survey mode0.0650.0390.0461.676.094
Overall provider rating
  Constant9.0950.16455.445.000
  Age−0.8510.154−0.147−5.533.000
  Education level−0.1340.033−0.107−4.040.000
  Concordant sex and ethnicity0.1930.0820.0622.353.019
  Survey mode0.2560.1140.0602.251.025
Authors

The authors are from the Department of Orthopedics, NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, New York, New York.

Dr Johnson, Mr Vasquez-Montes, Ms Steinmetz, and Dr Bendo have no relevant financial relationships to disclose. Mr Buckland receives travel reimbursement from K2M. Dr Goldstein is a paid consultant for NuVasive and RTI and receives royalties from NuVasive. Dr Errico is a paid consultant for K2M, has received research support from Pfizer and Paradigm Spine, has received fellowship support from OMEGA, has received grants from Medtronic, and receives royalties from Fastinex. Dr Fischer is a paid consultant for Stryker and is on the speaker's bureau of K2M.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Bradley C. Johnson, MD, Department of Orthopedics, NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, 310 E 17th St, Ste 400, New York, NY 10003 ( brad.c.johnson@gmail.com).

Received: January 08, 2019
Accepted: March 18, 2019

10.3928/01477447-20190424-05

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