Though use of repeated generic measurements of patient satisfaction is increasing, we have limited knowledge of how results change over time. The present study focused on systematic changes of inpatients' satisfaction both at high and low organizational levels, and addressed the question of whether there is an association to occupancy rates, acute rates and local leaders' evaluation of the concept for monitoring patient satisfaction.
During the period from 1999 to 2006, the County of Aarhus carried out detailed patient satisfaction surveys over four periods in eight somatic hospitals. The 71 wards participating in the first three periods were included. Organizational data were drawn from a management information system. A questionnaire to heads of department and hospital was used to evaluate the concept after each period.
At county level there was no significant development in satisfaction during the period. However, the wards with the lowest evaluations from the first round experienced significant and persisting improvements over the next two periods. The wards which experienced significant improvements were characterised by having few acute patients.
The study shows that patient satisfaction can change over time. There seems to be a positive effect associated with first time measurements on a detailed organizational level. Persistent improvements of patient satisfaction were seen on the wards with lowest satisfaction at baseline, indicating that the concept seems to have a positive impact on performance. Wards with a high acute rate seem to have difficulties in improving patient satisfaction.