Increasingly used as a measure of physician performance, subjective patient satisfaction ratings might actually lead to lower quality care in some situations, suggest United States plastic surgeons.
"Patient satisfaction data can be flawed and not broadly applicable," said Terence Myckatyn from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis. "While patient satisfaction is important, we think that better rating tools are needed to measure it," Myckatyn, a member surgeon of American Society of Plastic Surgeons, noted.
In an article, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the researchers shared some concerns about the trend toward using patient satisfaction ratings as a measure of physician performance.
"One could argue that these costly expenses have more to do with the perception of healthcare quality rather than actual outcomes," Myckatyn noted.
There are even anecdotal reports of doctors altering their medical judgment to improve patient satisfaction and minimize negative reviews - for example, prescribing antibiotics or strong pain medications to keep patients happy and move them quickly through the system.
"Behavior motivated by patient satisfaction becomes especially dangerous when ratings are directly tied to compensation," the authors wrote.