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A Massachusetts Surprise

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, July 1, 2010

The report also assesses how well physician offices handle patients' access, service and care needs, such as whether they feel they get timely appointments, care and information, and whether they feel they can see their own doctors when they need an appointment, and whether they feel they get adequate level of service from office staff.

In one of the most important response categories, "Knowledge of Patient," there was increased patient satisfaction reported in the survey, Rabson said. Patients reported:

 

  • 70% of physicians "always knew important information" about patients in 2009 compared to 67% in 2007
  • 70% of pediatricians "always knew important information" about patients, compared to 73%

 

In a sampling of questions in 2009, patients were asked about interactions with their adult care physicians' the previous 12 months:

 

  • 83% said their physicians were easy to understand
  • 82% said their physician listened carefully
  • 59% said their physicians were informed and up-to-date
  • 38% of patients said they saw their doctor within 15 minutes of an appointment

 

In a sampling of 2009 questions of families of pediatric patients:

  • 86% said physicians listened carefully
  • 86% said physicians gave clear instructions
  • 64% said physicians seemed informed and up-to-date about their child

 

"Doctor-patient relationships improved over time," Rabson says of the survey findings. "There were so many people who feared that with healthcare reform in the state there would be an impact on patients' attitudes about physicians -- that it was going to get worse in Massachusetts. It didn't happen."

Despite' Rabson's upbeat reaction to the survey results following healthcare reform in Massachusetts, there were some "negatives" in the poll findings. In the latest survey, 40% of adult patients and 35% of parents of pediatric patients reported that their physician did not always seem well informed about the care they received from specialists to whom they had been referred. In addition, the survey found that about 30% of adults and pediatric patients did not always receive follow-up reports on test results from the doctor's office visit, unchanged from 2007.

"Everybody is talking about the importance of patient care," she adds. "You have to work really hard for it. We believe that patients should expect certain things when they see a doctor, and while we acknowledge that most of our primary work is in a fragmented system, we still can't blame the system."

"MHQP's survey asks about aspects of the primary care experience that are fundamental to high quality care," Rabson says. "The survey allows us to understand how patients are experiencing care during this time of great change in our healthcare system."

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